UPDATE (June 29, 5:26 p.m. PT) — Two Portland State University officers have been placed on paid administrative leave following a shooting Friday morning that left one person dead.
The university identified those officers as Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey. McKenzie has worked in public safety for the university since 2002, and Dewey since 2014. Both became sworn campus police officers in 2016. Sworn officers are armed.
The Portland Police Bureau said the two officers were involved in the shooting death of a man near Southwest 6th Avenue and Southwest College street in downtown Portland early Friday. It’s the first officer-involved shooting at Portland State.
Multiple agencies, including the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau Homicide Detail, are conducting an investigation into the incident.
“I want to express my concern about the fatal officer-involved shooting early this morning,” said University President Rahmat Shoureshi in a statement. “I know there are many questions about the incident, and we want to keep you informed as best we can … I have asked our Campus Public Safety Chief to conduct a thorough internal assessment and evaluation of this incident as well as our policies and procedures.”
Keyaira Smith, a witness who filmed the encounter, described an altercation involving screaming and yelling on a street corner.
Video footage appears to show several people involved. Smith identified a man “in blue” at the center of the scuffle.
“The guy in blue had used some racial slurs earlier when they were in the street kiddy corner to where they were in this video and that’s what brought it to this point, and started the whole thing,” Smith said.
According to Smith, the man who was shot was “trying to be a good samaritan” and break up the fight that had ensued. University police appeared, Smith said, but did not appear to try to stop the fight.
Smith said the victim, who had a gun attached to his right side, tripped while trying to break up the fight.
“The gun slipped out of the holster when he had fallen, and I think he may have tried to retrieve it,” Smith said. “Then they said ‘gun.’”
That’s when police fired, she said.
“There was absolutely no hesitation at all,” she said. “[The officer] went straight for his gun.”
Smith said the victim’s back was turned to police when he was shot.
The university’s board of trustees cast a controversial vote in 2014 to employ sworn armed police officers on campus.
At the time, the Portland Police Bureau was also on board with the University Public Safety Department’s plan to commission sworn officers. PSU was “almost exclusively” policed by PPB, according to background documents on the 2014 resolution, which resulted in “considerable wait times to calls for a police response.”
The decision drew backlash from students who worried it would make the university less safe.
“I am so worried about having armed police at school,” said a student responding to an anonymous student survey conducted by Diversity and Multicultural Student Services in 2014.
“I am a tall African American male. I have had to swallow my pride too many times to get away from ‘Jumpy Officers’ alive,” the student said. “I hate to think of paying so much money to be at PSU and have the potential to have negative experiences with someone I help to pay.”
Portland State University has not identified the man killed by the officers. The Portland Police Bureau has referred questions about the incident to PSU. In a release late Friday, PSU said it will not be doing interviews or releasing further information at this point.