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Review of Mejia arrest puts city in quandary

A public split has opened up between the citizen committee that reviews complaints against police and the city official charged with assisting it.

At issue is whether the Citizen Review Committee of the Independent Review Division of the city auditor's office can take up the case of Jose Santos Victor Mejia Poot, the Mexican national who was shot and killed by police in a Sellwood psychiatric hospital April 1, 2001.

Tonight the committee is scheduled to ask division Director Richard Rosenthal whether it can legally review Mejia's arrest on March 30, 2001. The committee voted to review the arrest at its Feb. 18 meeting. The next day, Rosenthal met with the city attorney's office to discuss whether the vote was legal.

'We have put it on the agenda and expect an update on the case,' said committee Vice Chairwoman Denise Stone.

But Rosenthal said he will not discuss the vote until the next meeting, which is scheduled for April 1.

'I've told them I am not going to discuss this with them until the first. Even if I've discussed it with the city attorney, we'd have to write it up and see what other questions need to be answered,' Rosenthal said.

The issue is coming to a head in part because of a $10 million federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week by attorneys representing Mejia's estate. Rosenthal had hoped to compromise with the committee by referring the case to a panel of experts hired by the city to review police shootings.

That option was eliminated, however, when the estate sued the city, the Portland Police Bureau, police Chief Mark Kroeker and the officers involved in the shooting.

The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. tonight in the Rose Room on the second floor of City Hall, 1120 S.W. Fifth Ave.