Off-duty Portland cop cleared in Scappoose shooting
District Attorney Stephen Atchison deems Greg Stewart's shooting of Jeffrey Turpin was justified
Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison on Friday said he would not pursue charges against an off-duty Portland Police Bureau officer who shot and killed a drug-crazed, gun-wielding man outside the officer's home.
Greg Stewart, a sergeant with the Portland Police Bureau, early on Oct. 5 shot and killed Jeffrey Dean Turpin, 42, of Ocean Park, Wash. Turpin was wielding a handgun and repeatedly pounding on the front door of Stewart's home in a Scappoose subdivision.
'Taking into account the facts of this case and the applicable law, it is my opinion that no charges should be filed,' Atchison wrote in a 13-page legal opinion and investigative report that outlines events leading up to the shooting.
'It was reasonable for Mr. Stewart to believe that he needed to act to protect his family and home before an intruder escalated the situation to the level of actual violence or harm, rather than likely harm, to himself or his family,' the report continues.
'It is not the law that a person in Mr. Stewart's position must allow an armed person to either enter the home and/or fire the first shot before action is justified,' Atchison continued.
When Stewart perceived that Turpin intended to 'rush the door,' Stewart fired a 9 mm pistol twice through a window on the right side of the door and fired two shots straight at the door.
Turpin was hit by two bullets, one of which was a fatal shot to the chest.
The report outlines Atchison's legal reasoning in making the decision, including analysis of Oregon statute and other case law. The focus of his analysis is on the use of physical force, including deadly force, to defend personal safety and premises.
The investigation into the shooting wrapped up in mid-December.
Oregon State Police Det. Scott Sudaisar and Scappoose Police Officer Troy Gainer conducted the main investigation into the shooting.
Mike Staropoli, a Portland defense attorney who formerly worked for the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and who represented Stewart, said he believes the legal opinion reflects the available evidence.
'I think it's pretty clear from the evidence, and I'm not just talking about what Mr. Stewart was aware of, but everybody - the police and the neighbors - that this was clearly an individual in his home who was responding to a threat to his family as a husband and a father,' Staropoli said.
Staropoli said Stewart was 'relieved' to hear Atchison's opinion.
A postmortem toxicology drug screen conducted on Turpin and analyzed by Dr. Clifford Nelson of the state's Medical Examiner's Office showed that Turpin had greater than 2,000 nanograms per milliliter of amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.
'The amphetamine level present in Mr. Turpin are consistent with some cases of excited delirium,' the reports states. 'Also, this level of amphetamine is consistent with cardiac death or cardiac arrest' and 'irrational, manic behavior leading to accidental death.'
Atchison informed Turpin's sister and mother of his decision not to bring charges against Stewart on Friday afternoon.
Atchison said the evidence in the case was clear and that he stands by his decision.
'To me, the evidence and the law are clear,' he said.
Turpin's family members were not immediately available for comment.
Turpin showed signs of paranoia
Turpin entered the Scappoose neighborhood around 2 a.m. on a Friday. He was shirtless, barefoot and had an American flag draped around his shoulders, Atchison's report says.
After being summoned to the scene, Scappoose Police Officer Shawn Barrett approached Turpin and asked if they could talk.
Barrett asked Turpin if he had a handgun. Turpin answered that he did and showed the gun to Barrett, touching off a lengthy negotiation with Turpin in an attempt to have him hand over the gun.
At one point, Turpin set the gun on the ground, but refused to step far enough away from it to allow Barrett to safely take control of the situation, the report says.
When Barrett asked Turpin to move away from the gun, Turpin replied that 'he did not want to give up that option,' according to the report.
Turpin made delusional statements, including that he had been pursued from Astoria to Scappoose by 10 police officers. He later admitted that the pursuers weren't police officers, but were acting like police officers even though they had no lights or sirens operating and never got close to him, the report says.
Turpin also said at one point that he was 'going to end it,' a reference to suicide repeated several times to Barrett, according to the report.
Other witness accounts are compiled in the report, most concluding that Turpin was acting irrational, with mood swings between anger, agitation, paranoia and irrationality.
Inside Stewart's home
Stewart was in the house with his wife and two young children.
According to the report, Stewart learned of Turpin's presence in the subdivision from a neighbor, who telephoned Stewart to warn him that a man was in neighborhood and was carrying a gun.
Stewart told police investigators that he gathered his family into the laundry room in the basement and then retrieved the 9 mm pistol. He went up a flight of stairs to survey the situation at the front of his home. At that time, Stewart thought Turpin looked 'crazy or drugged up,' the report says.
The report states that 'Stewart felt that he needed to remain near the front door of his home in order to keep track of the situation outside and to protect his family.' He was situated on a staircase that led from the basement to the entry area on the main level.
Atchison's report outlines Stewart's analysis of the situation and the angles of potential harm to his family, and that he reached the conclusion that Turpin's entrance would pose 'great danger' to his family. If Turpin successfully made it inside and fired downward at Stewart, a stray bullet could penetrate an interior wall and strike a family member.
Stewart remained in contact with Columbia County emergency dispatchers, who at one point told Stewart to gather his family and evacuate the home.
Stewart did go into his backyard, though once outside he determined they could not safely evacuate for several reasons. For one, he was dressed in dark pants and no shirt, similar to Turpin's dress, giving him concern that he could be mistaken for Turpin by arriving officers.
Second, there was no safe place for the family to go that would not be vulnerable to stray bullets if shooting started, the report says. The family would have to move through wide open spaces to reach safety, and only a thin fence offered concealment, the report states.
After moving his family back inside to the basement, Stewart again heard banging and learned from a neighbor on the telephone that it was Turpin. Stewart moved up the stairs to assess the situation, and saw Turpin moving away from the house.
'Stewart then saw that Turpin turned and started back toward the front door,' the report states. 'Stewart believed that Turpin was starting to 'rush the door.' Stewart felt this because of the way Turpin was leaning forward, the speed of his movement, and that Turpin looked 'intent' and 'angry.''