UPDATE (June 5, 2:46 p.m. PT) — The family of Quanice Hayes filed a lawsuit against the city of Portland on Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges Portland Police officer Andrew Hearst, who was involved with two other officers in a separate on-duty fatal shooting of a suspect in 2013, used excessive force intentionally and used “unreasonable and unjustifiable” deadly force.
The suit also alleges the city of Portland failed to properly train all the officers present when Hayes was shot, including Hearst and his commanding officer. Attorney Jesse Merrithew, who’s representing the family, said that claim is based entirely on grand jury testimony Hearst and another officer gave following the shooting. Merrithew says both officers’ versions of events revealed contradictory understandings of who was giving commands and what the commands were.
“As a result, two officers of the apprehension team were shouting contradictory commands at Quanice Hayes, making it impossible for him to comply with both,” the lawsuit states. “It was a proximate cause of his death.”
Hayes, an African-American, was shot in the head and killed by Hearst on Feb. 9, 2017. He and other officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery. Hayes was 17. Portland Police confirmed Venus Hayes, Quanice Hayes’ mother, found out about her son’s death on social media.
Hearst fired his AR-15 three times, believing Hayes — who was on his knees when he was shot — was armed with a gun. At the time Hearst fired officers had not seen a gun.
Police later found a fake gun nearby that Hayes had been carrying. Police say he pointed it at someone near Northeast 82nd Avenue in Portland.
Last March, a grand jury did not indict Hearst.
“The conduct of the defendants, shooting an unarmed 17-year-old boy in the head with an assault rifle while he was on his knees complying with commands, shocks the conscience of the community,” the lawsuit reads.
Hayes’ family announced their intentions in February to sue the city and the officers involved. Hayes’ mother hand-delivered the notice to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s chief of staff.
“Since no criminal charges were brought against Officer Hearst [so] that there can be some kind of accountability, which is what we [are] lacking all over the country,” Venus Hayes said in February. “My son was just one, one kid.”
The city attorney’s office said it does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit is the second filed against the city in the last two months related to police conduct in officer-involved shootings.
The family of John Elifritz, who was killed at a Southeast Portland homeless shelter on April 7, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the eight individual law enforcement officers involved in his death.
Merrithew says breakdowns in communication among officers in the Hayes case, in addition to the noisy and chaotic scene inside the shelter where Elifrtiz was shot, highlight confusing situations for suspects and guarantee bad outcomes.
“This is a big problem,” Merrithew said. “When it’s people like John Elifritz and Quanice Hayes who are younger, who are maybe in a mental health crises, maybe on drugs, all sorts of different situations, you are guaranteed that this is not going to work out well.”