But I'm still bothered by it, notwithstanding the most press release from the Portland Police Bureau after an interview with the officer, Jason Walters -- which, disturbingly, didn't take place until days had passed after the shooting.
The transient, Jack "Jackie" Collins, was intoxicated and threatening people at Hoyt Aboretum. After Walters knocked on the restroom door, Collins came out. Pretty clearly, Collins had been cutting on himself. There was no report that he had hurt anybody.
So Walters is faced with a 58 year old drunk guy armed with an x-acto knife. I've got several in my tool box. They're handy for stripping wallpaper and handling other chores. Yes, they have a sharp blade. However, they aren't a "bad guy" weapon of choice.
Walters, after having two days to talk things over with his attorney, says that he was backing up, ran into some barrier, and had no choice but to shoot Collins four times. I find that difficult to believe.
If it's true, then Walters is to blame. Restrooms are for public use. Public walk up to them, and people walk away from them. If Walters made the mistake of backing into a barrier, Collins didn't deserve to die for that.
Walters had called for backup. There was ample opportunity to defuse the situation once the police officer realized that all he was dealing with was a drunk transient, possibly suicidal, who only had an x-acto knife.
I resonated with one of the comments on a KATU story about the killing.
usually i will be able to somehow reason on the police side. That said however I cannot see how deadly force was needed to take down a guy with a razor knife.
And he was shot 4 times? That to me sounds like a cop who just openned fire and didn't even think about non lethal shots.
Pepper spray and a tazor seem to have been more in order than killing the guy.
While I wasn't there i can tell you that as a bouncer at a bar I had knifes pulled on me more than once and I didn't need to shoot anyone ever who came at me swinging one. And the knifes pulled were not just "razor knifes"
This seems like lack of training to me
One of the guys in my martial arts class, who I've trained with for quite a while, also has been a bouncer in several bars. He says that he has had knives pulled on him several times. The guy never had to kill anybody. Nor has he ever been injured.
I understand fear. I don't blame Walters for fearing for his life. But here's the thing: if you sign up to be a police officer, you should be prepared to "protect and serve." That means putting your life on the line in order to protect and serve the public.
Which includes drunk transient guys with mental problems who are out of it and don't know what they're doing. Walters seemed to assume that Collins should have been able to respond to "drop the knife!" just like any normal person would.
Walters wasn't taking into account the specifics of the situation. He seemed to be operating on autopilot, rigidly following some rule that says shoot to kill if someone doesn't obey orders and you feel threatened.
Well, it depends. That's what you learn in martial arts training, as in ballroom dancing training -- which I'm also quite familiar with. There are no rules, except there are no rules.
But in police work, as elsewhere in life, skill comes from assessing what is really happening in a situation, not what some book or previous rule-based training tells you to do.
The rest of this Portland police killing story is easy to figure out, because it has played out before in other deaths of mentally ill people at the hands of poorly trained officers. Walters will go before a grand jury and tell jurors that he felt his life was threatened by Collins.
The grand jury won't press any charges. Case closed. Another disturbed man killed, another Portland police officer cleared of any wrongdoing.
But something sure seems wrong to me here. Police officers in other areas aren't so prone to shoot first and defuse a situation later. Here's an example.
Walter's life wasn't in great danger. He had plenty of other options open to him other than killing Collins.
Here's the uncomfortable truth, as I see it: Walters chose to protect and serve himself rather than a disturbed drunk guy who was cutting on himself with an x-acto knife. He could have taken a small risk of being hurt, and have a big chance of saving Collins' life.
The Portland Police Bureau needs an urgent reassessment of its whole approach to dealing with mentally incapacitated people who don't pose an obvious threat. Killing them isn't the answer.