No justice, no peace
- Jennifer Anderson
- Portland Tribune - News
Family disputes police account of fatal motel shooting
A Multnomah County grand jury will hear evidence early next week to decide whether two Portland police officers committed criminal wrongdoing when they shot and killed a man last week.
A 3-year-old boy may be the only witness to the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Byron Clay Hammick Jr. early Friday at a Southeast Portland motel.
Police said a security guard had called 911 shortly after 3 a.m. He reported that a man in Room 222 of Motel 6, 3104 S.E. Powell Blvd., was assaulting the boy and might have a handgun.
Police say the officers saw the man assaulting the child when they arrived and ordered him to stop, but when he did not, they fired their weapons.
The officers were on the motel landing outside the room and fired through a broken window. Hammick died at the scene of gunshots wounds to the head and chest.
'Their motive was to have him stop hurting the child,' said Police Chief Mark Kroeker, emphasizing that all of the evidence will be heard by a grand jury. 'They took a life to save a life.'
Because of the investigation, police declined to detail the events surrounding the shooting. They would not say yet whether Hammick was holding a gun or had one in the room, where Hammick and the child were located in the room, or how many shots were fired and from what distance.
Also, police have not yet said why Hammick was in the motel or what preceded the shooting. He did not live there, family members said.
The boy is the son of a friend of Hammick's.
Hammick's death is the third homicide in Portland this year. Last year, Portland police fired at nine people; three shootings were fatal.
The boy who was in the room with Hammick was recovering from multiple bruises, police said Monday. None of the boy's injuries was a result of the shooting, they said.
The child was taken Friday by ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center after the incident and is in police protective custody. Police said the child is too young to be asked 'investigative questions,' but he is talking with officers from the child abuse team.
Police said they were interviewing the child's mother, whose name they would not release. She has not been charged with any crime, authorities said.
The victim's family disputes that Hammick, a father of three, would hurt a child. They claim that the shooting was racially motivated, unprovoked and unjustified.
'He never had a fight in his life with a man or a woman,' said Hammick's grandmother, Ardie Miller. Others described him as 'laid-back' and 'always calm.'
The officers involved, Stephen Mosier, 54, and Christopher Gilbert, 38, were placed on routine administrative leave while the investigation continues. Mosier has been with the bureau for 32 years; Gilbert joined 4 1/2 years ago.
According to the police bureau's policy and procedures manual, officers 'may use deadly force to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.'
Police say there was a felony warrant out for Hammick's arrest for distribution and/or manufacture of a controlled substance near a school zone. He'd been arrested and jailed before on similar drug charges and probation violations.
His family dismissed his arrest record, saying he might have been involved in drugs but was not violent.
Hammick was last released from jail in September 2000 and had been living at various locations.
'He loves kids,' said Stacy Pennycook, 23, his girlfriend and the mother of his 3-month-old son, Byron. 'He was such a good father. Nobody believes he'd touch that child.'
Hammick grew up in his family's Northeast Portland home and attended Jefferson High School. He left home at 18 and had three children Ñ the other two are 2 and 4 years old. He spent his days watching the children and worked odd jobs, Pennycook said.
His mother, Lynetta Jones, said: 'I'm just angry. The police is always being justified. I feel like my son didn't have a chance. After all this, I will be talking to attorneys. I'm gonna get to the bottom of this.'
The police bureau's homicide detectives and the East County Major Crimes team are investigating.
Angry relatives gather
Hours after the shooting, the situation was explosive outside Motel 6, across the street from Cleveland High School. Alongside the rush of early morning traffic, at least two dozen of Hammick's relatives stood behind yellow police tape in the motel parking lot, frequently erupting in outbursts at police.
They were disturbed that it took more than seven hours to remove Hammick's body from the motel room and that they were not able to see the body before it was taken to the county morgue.
Police said it took that long to preserve the scene while criminalists were collecting photographic and other evidence for the investigation.
Chaos erupted when the medical examiner entered the room at 10:25 a.m. and brought out Hammick's covered body on a gurney. 'Murder in the first!' they yelled from a vantage in an adjoining parking lot about 50 feet away from the room. 'Murderers.' 'No justice, no peace.'
The few officers standing at the perimeter maintained a calm, secure front, with few words exchanged. No officers were injured in the incident.
Mother had left room
Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a police spokesman, said the motel security guard's 911 call came in at 3:07 a.m. Two officers arrived on the scene at 3:09 a.m. and found that the window to the room had been broken out.
'Investigators have learned that the officers saw the suspect assaulting the child when they arrived at the motel room,' Schmautz said.
He said detectives interviewed several witnesses who reported hearing police give repeated commands to stop assaulting the child. The officers called for cover, and one more officer arrived at 3:10 a.m. Within minutes, two more arrived.
At 3:14 a.m., the first two officers, Mosier and Gilbert, fired their weapons, Schmautz said, and Hammick died at the scene.
The mother of the child, who was the registered occupant of Room 222, had left the boy with Hammick and did not return until 9:25 a.m. The woman walked through the Motel 6 parking lot angrily yelling, 'Where is he? What happened?' apparently unaware of the events that took place.
Two phone calls
As part of the investigation, a toxicology report, which would list any substances in the victim's bloodstream, is pending.
It's unknown whether there were any witnesses other than the officers, the victim and the child. It's also unclear what occurred before police arrived Ñ why Hammick apparently had broken the windows of his room, and why he'd reportedly used his cellphone to make two phone calls shortly after 3 a.m.
Pennycook said he called one of his cousins, sounding 'scared,' and then called her.
Pennycook said she missed the call but made two calls back to him, which he answered. When she called him at 3:10 a.m., she said, 'He told me, 'Boo, I'm gone.' Then the phone hung up.' She said the second call went the same way.
The last call she made to him, she said, was unanswered.
A funeral is planned for 1 p.m. Friday at Morning Star Baptist Church, 106 N.E. Ivory St.
Police ask that anyone with information on the incident call detectives, 503-823-0400.