Wheeler urges patience in police shooting investigation
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler appealed for calm and patience as police investigated the Saturday night shooting of an alleged carjacking suspect who fled into a Southeast Grand Avenue shelter with several police in pursuit.
"Last night officers responded to multiple calls for service regarding a suspect that ultimately ended in an officer involved shooting," Wheeler said in a statement released shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, April 8. "The loss of a life is always tragic. My priority is to discover the facts and circumstances regarding this incident. Already, there are those who want to immediately define what happened. It would be highly irresponsible for me to participate in speculation at this time. I urge us all to allow investigators to do their work, to uncover the facts, and to report on their findings."
KOIN 6 News identified the victim as John Elifritz. KOIN 6 News, a Portland Tribune news partner, also posted a cell phone video of the shooting taken by someone inside the shelter during an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The video shows people scrambling and trying to get outside after a man rushes inside. Police burst in moments later and confront the man, who seems to hesitate and then move toward officers before being shot.
According to his Facebook page, Elifritz lived in Milwaukie with his wife and daughter.
You can see the video at tinyurl.com/ydhqzsxt. Beware: the video is graphic.
The ACLU of Oregon released a statement about the video Sunday, seeking answers to several questions about the shooting, including whether officers tried to de-escalate the situation before firing at the suspect. "The video shows a disturbing and chaotic scene of people in the shelter running and yelling in fear, while others looked on, including one person in a wheelchair, as Portland Police officers enter the building with guns drawn. In less than a minute, officers shoot and kill the man, while members of an already traumatized population, Portland's homeless community, watch in horror. Was there any attempt to de-escalate the situation before officers open fire inside the homeless shelter full of innocent bystanders? If not, why not?"
In a Sunday afternoon statement, Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said, "The Portland Police Bureau values human life and accepts the authority to use lethal force with great reverence. I am aware a video was taken of this incident by a community member and that video was posted to the internet. Please be reminded that deadly force investigations are extremely complex and take time. The Police Bureau is committed to transparency and will ensure the entire investigation is released in a timely manner that does not impact the integrity of the investigation."
On Monday, the Oregon chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to "investigate the shooting of a man in a homeless shelter by the Portland Police Bureau and to develop better police accountability and community support measures."
Running for exits
Police say that at 7:30 p.m. on April 7, Central Precinct, Transit Division and Gang Enforcement Team officers responded to a reported crash involving a stolen vehicle at Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Stark Street. Officers learned that the driver of the vehicle fled after the crash. Information was also broadcast that East Precinct officers had taken a report that the silver Honda CRV was taken by force from the 7500 block of Southeast Knight Street at 4:35 p.m on Saturday.
Officers discovered the suspect inside the Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter, 526 S.E. Grand Ave. People inside the shelter began running for exits as police entered the building. After several seconds, shots were fired and police called for emergency medical personnel. The suspect died in the shooting.
Portland homicide detectives, assisted by the East County Major Crimes Team and Multnomah County district attorney's office are investigating the shooting.
For a previous Portland Tribune story on the shooting, go to tinyurl.com/y9t7qqke.