Woman accuses Gresham officer of violating her rights

A Gresham transit officer who confiscated a woman’s phone after she recorded them making an arrest on Tuesday, Feb. 12, was within his legal rights, said Lt. Claudio Grandjean, Gresham Police spokesman.

Multiple officers in Southeast Portland apprehended a man who faces an accusation of resisting arrest, Grandjean said. During the incident, a Gresham officer, identified as Taylor Letsis, approached bystander Carrie Medina and asked to see the phone she had been using to record video of the arrest.

“Ma’am, do you want to hand me the phone or would you like to show it to me?,” Letsis said on the video.

Medina refused, saying the officer needed a subpoena to seize the phone.

“I don’t want to show you,” she said.

In response, Medina said Letsis grabbed her arm, twisted it and held it until another officer walked over to them.

Letsis watched the video, but there was no evidence of the arrest, so he returned the phone to Medina, Grandjean said.

Medina believes Letsis acted unlawfully when he seized her phone on public property, and on Thursday, Feb. 14, she filed a complaint with the Gresham Police Department.

But the officer complied with procedure, Grandjean said.

Letsis suspected the phone could contain evidence that the man indeed resisted arrested. And if an officer suspects evidence could be destroyed, law enforcement officers are allowed under state law to seize property without a search warrant, Grandjean said.

“It’s reasonable,” he said. “In this situation where we had a person resisting arrest, the person could contend the officer used force for no reason. The proof to disprove his claim could be on the phone.”

But Beth Creighton, a Portland civil rights attorney, said the officer went too far.

“Police officers want to say imminent threat is with us all the time,” she said. “It gives them an excuse to seize evidence without going through the proper channels. There was no reason to do what he did.”

Grandjean said Gresham Police are continuing to investigate the incident, although he added that it appears the officer did nothing wrong.

In an interview with KATU, Medina said she’s recorded more than 10 arrests in an effort to hold police accountable.

— KOIN Local 6 contributed to this news story.

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