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Local teen puts citizen's arrest statute to use

Forest Grove student handcuffs attacker in downtown Portland


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Roshawn Lemkau, 15, a Forest Grove High School student who made a citizens arrest last Monday, wants to go into law enforcement and eventually the secret service.It was just a coincidence Forest Grove High School sophomore Roshawn Lemkau was carrying handcuffs Monday, Feb. 17, when he made a citizen’s arrest.

When Roshawn, 15, was standing near Southwest Fifth Avenue and Stark Street in downtown Portland shortly after 3 p.m. on Presidents Day, he saw a man beating someone up near a bus stop.

“It looked like no one else was going to help,” said Roshawn. “The guy was punching fast and hard. What should I have done? Watch someone get beat up or maybe even killed?”

So Roshawn — who said he didn’t have time to be scared — ran through a strategy in his head: One, approach the attacker and get him to stop beating the other man. Two, calm the “bad guy.” Three, try to get the aggressor away from everyone else.

Roshawn said he approached the attacker, later identified as 47-year-old Jared Green, and told him he was under a citizen’s arrest. Green then started moving as if he were going to punch Roshawn, he said. The 15-year-old shined a bright flashlight in Green’s eyes, disorienting him.

When Green started to walk away, Roshawn said he grabbed Green’s hands and tackled him to the ground. When Green began to struggle, Roshawn took the handcuffs from the utility belt he’d just purchased at a downtown shop to replace an older, smaller one. Eventually, Roshawn said, he secured both handcuffs on Green. Portland Police officers arrived after a passerby called 911.

Pete Simpson of the Portland Police Bureau said the police report reflected the account Roshawn gave.

“A situation like this is pretty unusual,” Simpson said. “With a 15-year-old it is even less likely.”

Oregon law states that “a private person may arrest another person for any crime committed” in their presence if they have probable cause to believe the person under arrest has committed the crime. In addition, the law states the arrester must “without unnecessary delay, take the arrested person before a magistrate or deliver the arrested person to a peace officer.”

A homeowner interrupting an in-progress burglary and detaining the criminal in a bathroom — or a car owner tackling a prowler to the street — are examples of citizen’s arrests that usually make the news.

Mike Herb, spokesman for the Forest Grove Police Department, said calls involving individuals restrained by citizens often stem from domestic disputes or when a thief is caught in the act. Herb couldn’t recall any incident where a private citizen made an arrest using handcuffs.

Both Simpson and Herb don’t recommend making citizen’s arrests.

“People have the legal right to detain someone committing a crime,” Simpson said. “But they need to be confident of regulations and aware of what they can and cannot do.”

Simpson stresses that individuals need to be sure they’ve seen the crime committed. “Call 911 and be a good witness,” Simpson advised. “Don’t go roaming the streets looking for crime.”

Citizen’s arrests gone awry can lead to charges of harassment, assault, coercion and even kidnapping for a well-intentioned restrainer, Simpson pointed out.

Roshawn’s account of the situation may strike those in law enforcement as unusual and a little startling, but his dad didn’t find it surprising.

John Lemkau, 78, said his son has had “that protective instinct” since he was a young child, often stepping up when his friends were getting bullied.

Roshawn was in Portland Feb. 17 to visit his dad.

“I was surprised,” John Lemkau said of the incident. “It frightened me, but I have to say I’m glad he intervened and saved someone from really being hurt badly.”

The victim was taken away in an ambulance, Roshawn said.

John Lemkau resides in an assisted living facility with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Roshawn lives in a foster home in Forest Grove.

Lemkau said he adopted Roshawn in Chicago from a teen mother who was living in foster care next door. When Roshawn and his dad moved to California to find warmer weather, Roshawn participated in a youth program designed to help young people explore law enforcement career paths.

Since then, he said, he has had a utility belt like the one he purchased the day of the incident — just in case.



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