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City settles Campbell shooting case for $1.2 million

UPDATE • Attorney says city is not admitting wrongdoing in the incident

Although Portland has agreed to pay Aaron Campbell's family $1.2 million for his death, the city is not admitting wrongdoing or accepting liability for it, according to Campbell family attorney Tom Steenson.

Speaking at a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Steenson said the family was satisfied with the settlement amount but believes the Portland Police Bureau needs to adopt new policies and change training practices to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Specifically, Steenson said the city should require police to take the mental and emotional condition of people into account before using force against them, including legal force.

'We have asked te city to make these changes but it has not done so,' said Steenson, explaining that the judge could not have required the city to do so even if the family had won the trial.

Marva Davis, Campbell's mother, said the settlement money could be held in trust for her son's children.

Mayor Sam Adams' confirmed the settlement in a prepared statement.

'As mayor of the Portland, I would like to personally apologize to Aaron Campbell's family, particularly to his mother, Marva Davis, and his four children,' Adams said. 'Today's settlement does not erase the Campbell family's pain, nor does it bring back their father, son, brother, and cousin - and for that, I am very sorry.'

Campbell, an African American, was shot in the back and killed during a lengthy standoff with police on Jan. 29, 2010. The killing provoked community outrage, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson coming to town and denouncing the shooting as 'an execution.'

Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese fired the officer who fired the fatal shot, Ron Frashour. The Portland Police Association is appealing the firing.

Another officer and two supervisors were suspended without pay.

In a press release, Davis said the Campbell family is grateful they will not have to relive the shooting again, and that they are grateful for the support they have received from the community.

In addition, she said the family is grateful the number of police-related shootings has declined since Campbell's death.

But Davis also said the family does not believe the city has done enough to ensure that such incidents will not happen again. She said both Reese and the Portland Police Association initially defended Frashour and said he complied with the Portland Police Bureau's deadly force policies.

Here is Davis' statement:

On behalf of the Campbell family, I am pleased to say that we have settled the claims relating to Aaron's death for $1.2 million. We will now propose to the probate court that a lion's share of these funds be held in trust for Aaron's children until they are adults.

We are told that this is the most money that the City's insurer has ever paid out on a claim against the Portland Police Bureau, although in truth it does not seem like enough for the losses we have suffered. We are grateful, however, that we will not have to relive the events of that awful time, and reopen those wounds again. We are also grateful for the support that we have received from family, friends and members of the community who have supported us throughout.

We take to heart that officer-involved shootings have gone down in Portland since Aaron was killed, and choose to believe that in some measure, losing him has made our community safer from those we've armed with guns, and entrusted with the community's safety.

However, this needs to be said. During the case, our attorneys uncovered some very troubling information regarding our police policies and practices. First, we are very disappointed with Police Chief Reese's refusal to add language to the Police Bureau's use of force policy requiring in writing that officers take a person's emotional upset or mental illness into consideration as a factor when making a decision to use force. There is no good reason not to make this change.

Second, Chief Reese assured the public in disciplining the officers involved that Police Bureau policy required that before shooting to kill, the facts and circumstances must justify the conclusion that the citizen's behavior amounts to an immediate threat to life. The Chief's investigation concluded that Aaron Campbell clearly did not present such a danger to anyone. Compare this with the fact that Officers Frashour and Lewton were going to call as witnesses at trial eleven of the trainers who teach our officers the rules. All of these trainers were to testify under oath that Chief Reese is wrong. To make this worse, the City was ready to stipulate to this testimony. This disconnect between what the Police Bureau's policy is supposed to mean and what officers are trained to do is dangerous, and puts us all at risk.

And third, the Police Bureau took the position in defending this lawsuit that the City was not responsible for Aaron's death, even though admitting the death resulted from violation of its own bureau's policies. The City argued that the officers didn't need to comply with Portland's policies, but need only comply with broader state statutes regarding the use of force. Those statutes do not spell out that use of deadly force requires an immediate danger to the life of others as justification. Our city leaders need to address this duplicity and hold our police force to its own rules and regulations.

And finally as a mother, I regrettably do not believe my living sons are safe. That bond of community trust has been broken. I cannot say to them that if there is a mental health crisis ... 'call the police'. We have asked our attorneys to contact the United States Department of Justice to report these findings.

Our hope is that the information will be of help during its on-going investigation into the use of deadly force in dealing with emotionally upset or mentally ill citizens in crisis, and help reduce the danger to the most vulnerable among us.

We ask that the media and others respect our family's privacy as we have no intention of making further comment at this time. Thank you.