A Multnomah County grand jury has decided the use of deadly force by a Portland police officer that resulted in the death of Andre Gladen was a lawful act of self-defense.
Gladen, a 36-year-old African-American man who family members say suffered from schizophrenia, was visiting family in Portland in January when he was shot and killed by PPB Officer Consider Vosu.
The grand jury returned a “not true bill” decision Friday, determining that no criminal prosecution was necessary against Vosu. The decision comes just hours before Gladen’s family — including his two parents Slyvester Gladen and Donna Gray — were scheduled to meet with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw.
Vosu shot Gladen on Jan. 6 after responding to a report of a man who was not leaving a residence. Vosu arrived on scene to find Gladen inside a stranger’s home. Vosu used his Taser on the man and then shot him when Tasing failed to subdue him, according to a witness.
Family members confirmed to OPB in January that Gladen was at the Adventist Medical Center less than a mile away in the hours before he was killed. Why Gladen was at the hospital remains unclear, but raises questions about his mental state the day he was killed.
“We don’t know what was given to him at the hospital. All we know is he did not leave the same way he came in. When he left, he was without shoes; he was without a coat. He had a blanket and socks on,” said one of Andre’s sisters, Donna Martin. “He went on his own to get help and it sounds like he didn’t receive it there either.”
Family say Gladen suffered from schizophrenia, took medication for bipolar disorder and was blind in one eye. Andrew M. Stroth, a Chicago-based lawyer representing Gladen’s family, said he believes Gladen may have been in the middle of a mental health crisis when he was killed.
Gladen’s family has said they intend to sue the Police Bureau over the shooting death.
“As expected, the PPB officer who unjustifiably shot and killed Andre Gladen was not indicted on criminal charges. At this stage, the Gladen family will continue to fight for justice and truth,” Stroth said.
“In the context of a police department that has been investigated by the Department of Justice and has a documented pattern and practice of using excessive force on individuals in mental crisis, we don’t believe the narrative as stated by the officer. The family has lost a son, brother and father and it’s tragic,” he said.
Members of Gladen’s family met with Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Bureau Chief Danielle Outlaw Friday to discuss memories of Andre and urge Portland to do better in its policing, specifically with people who have mental illnesses.
“[Wheeler and Outlaw] acknowledged that there are significant systemic problems that need to be solved,” said Tim Volpert, local legal co-counsel for the family. “I think they’ve got the message that there’s something really really wrong. The question is what’s going to be done about it.”
Along with Volpert, the Gladen family was joined by Stephanie Babb, the sister of Brian Babb, a man who was shot and killed by Eugene Police in 2015.
“I am trying to help the family walk through this because when your family member is killed by an authority that investigates themselves, you’re left with a lot of questions,” Babb said.
One of Andre’s sisters, Rekenya Gladen, said the family will continue traveling to Portland from their home in Sacramento to speak with the community, and to make sure that Andre’s story continues getting told.
“We don’t want it to just stop because he’s gone now. We need to get it out there to stop it from happening to other families, because if not, if we don’t get together as one community and continue to fight the system that we’re in now it’s going to keep happening,” Rekenya said.
Andre’s sister Donna Martin reiterated the loss the Gladen family is feeling from Andre’s death. She believes it’s a lack of police training surrounding mental illness that led to her brother’s shooting.
“This was not Andre. This happened to him because of the lack of training, the lack of de-escalation techniques that were performed on site,” Martin said. “With the whole police brutality thing, for mental illness, the police should be the last person that responds.”
Gladen’s death marked the third time in nine months a Portland officer has shot and killed someone who appeared to be in the middle of a mental health crisis. Almost seven years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Portland Police Bureau engaged in a pattern and practice of force against people suffering from mental health crises.
Multnomah County grand juries have repeatedly exonerated officers for using deadly force while on duty, including in the October 2018 shooting of Patrick Kimmons, the shooting of a legally armed black man by two Portland State University campus police and the February 2017 death of an African-American teen.