Portland Police officers could have taken cover before trying to arrest Quanice Hayes, an African-American teen shot and killed by Portland police in 2017. That might have prevented Hayes’ death, according to independent experts who reviewed officer involved shootings and in-custody deaths for the city.
Hayes was shot in the head and killed by Portland Officer Andrew Hearst on Feb. 9, 2017, after Hayes moved his hand toward his waistband while crawling toward police. The officer had been told by dispatchers Hayes was a suspect in an armed robbery, though it turned out the gun was a plastic replica. A grand jury decided not to criminally charge Hearst for the shooting.
The California-based OIR Group that reviewed the incident said some of the officers involved made smart tactical decisions, including not getting drawn into a risky foot pursuit with Hayes.
But the experts found problems with officers’ attempt to take Hayes into custody. Officers didn’t take cover behind a police car or ballistic shields that they had available, according to the report, even though they believed Hayes was armed. That exposed position made it more likely an officer would feel threatened and pull the trigger, the consultants concluded.
The experts made 40 recommendations in the report. They include not placing detailed criminal histories at the beginning of detective files, videotaping interviews in police shooting investigations, and engaging officers involved in more than one deadly force incident to see if patterns between events could be addressed with training.
Hayes’ family sued the city in June 2018, arguing in part that officers shouted contradictory commands at Hayes, making it impossible for him to comply.
“We are pleased to see that the city’s consultants identified the same training issue that we identified in our complaint,” said Jesse Merrithew, the lawyer representing the Hayes family in a lawsuit against the city. “However, we are disappointed in the watered-down nature of the recommendation those consultants make [Recommendation No. 23].”
That recommendation suggests the bureau’s Training Division, Internal Affairs and commanders should analyze police tactics, including police commands.
“No amount of after-incident analysis and consideration would have prevented Quanice’s death,” Merrithew said. “PPB needs to implement policies and training to ensure that whenever they are pointing guns at people, they are giving clear, understandable, direct commands. This should not be complicated or controversial.”
The consultants have said that using the right tactics can reduce an officer’s need to use deadly force, even when they believe a person has reached for a weapon.