No federal prosecutions in Campbell case
- Jim Redden
- Portland Tribune - News
U.S. Department of Justice will not charge police in controversial 2010 shooting death
The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to criminally prosecute any of the Portland police officers involved in the death of Aaron Campbell.
Department officials found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against any of the police involved in the incident.
Campbell was shot and killed during a Jan. 29, 2010, standoff with police at a Northeast Portland apartment complex. Police had been told Campbell was armed and suicidal. He had left his gun in an apartment when police convinced him to come out, however.
After Campbell came out with his hands behind his head, Officer Ryan Lewton began firing beanbag rounds at him. When Campbell turned and started to run back in the apartment, Officer Ronald Frashour shot him in the back with an AR15 rifle.
'Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish such a criminal violation,' according to a Department of Justice press release. 'After a careful review of the facts, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the law enforcement personnel who fired at Campbell acted willfully, meaning with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.'
The Campbell family was informed of the decision before it was announced. Family attorney Tom Steenson responded with a statement that said the family supports the decision because such prosecutions 'would have served little purpose in the healing process for the family.'
The incident provoked outrage in the African-American community and a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said the police 'executed' Campbell. Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who was police commissioner at the time of the shooting, asked the justice department to launch a civil rights investigation into the death and the long-term relationship of the Portland Police Bureau to the African-American community.
The justice department has not said whether it is investigating the bureau. A recent story on Salon.com said the department has launched so-called 'patterns and practices' investigation into a number of other cities, including Seattle, Denver and New Orleans.
'The family also looks forward to a decision being made in the near future by the federal Civil Rights Division as to whether it will investigate the Portland Police Bureau for patterns and practices of federal civil rights violations related to the deaths of innocent citizens,' Steenson said in the statement.
The Campbell family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city last year. In addition to naming Lewton and Frashour as defendants, it names two supervisors on the scene, Sgt. Liana Renya and Sgt. John Birkinbine.
Later in the afternoon, Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese released a statement thanking the department for its investigation and saying changes have been made since the Campbell shooting to reduce the likelihood of a similar incident, including changes in the policies governing the use of AR15s.
'The fatal shooting of Aaron Campbell was tragic, and I appreciate the Justice Department taking a thorough look at the facts of this case. Chief Mike Reese and the Portland Police Bureau and I have already taken action in the last year to learn from the Campbell case, and making necessary changes in police training and practices. We've sought to be decisive in addressing this issue,' Adams said in the statement.
'I want to thank the DOJ for their investigation into this officer-involved shooting. We can't undo the death of Aaron Campbell, but I believe we have taken significant steps to learn from it. In this case, I believe each Bureau member involved was attempting to do their best to resolve a complex situation. However, there were significant issues that were brought forth in the Bureau's internal reviews and those involved were held accountable,' Reese said in the statement.