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Aaron Campbell Grand Jury Letter

Aaron Campbell Grand Jury Letter

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Published by The Oregonian
A Multnomah County grand jury found found no criminal wrongdoing by the officer who shot and killed Aaron M. Campbell on Jan. 29. Nevertheless, the jury said he was killed because of critical police errors, including no central command, lack of communication between officers and training that teaches officers how to shoot without key decision-making skills.
A Multnomah County grand jury found found no criminal wrongdoing by the officer who shot and killed Aaron M. Campbell on Jan. 29. Nevertheless, the jury said he was killed because of critical police errors, including no central command, lack of communication between officers and training that teaches officers how to shoot without key decision-making skills.

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Published by: The Oregonian on Feb 19, 2010
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11/07/2010

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February 10, 2010Michael D. SchrunkDistrict AttorneyMultnomah County Courthouse1021 SW 4th Avenue, Room 600Portland, Oregon 97204Dear Mr. Schrunk,We are Multnomah county Grand Jury 1, session 1. We began our service forMultnomah County on 1/12/10. Our service ended at 8:30 P. M. on 2/9/10, whenwe finished deliberation over testimony for Grand Jury Case #108, the policeshooting of Aaron Campbell at the Sandy Terrace Apartments on 1/29/10.After significant testimony in the Aaron Campbell case, study of the relevant laws,and deliberation amongst ourselves, we the grand jury determined that we could notindict Officer Ron Frashour on any criminal charge. That is not to say that we foundhim innocent, agreed with his decisions, or found that the police incident at SandyTerrace was without flaw. What we found was that Officer Frashour’s actions wereconsistent with the relevant laws and statutes regarding the use of deadly force by apolice officer. After much discussion, we realized we could not indict for emotionalreasons, when the legal reason indicated otherwise. This was very difficult for us asa grand jury, as our sympathies lie with the Campbell family and the mood of thecommunity. As a group, we are outraged at what happened at Sandy Terrace.We know something went terribly, terribly wrong at Sandy Terrace and that AaronCampbell should not have died that day. He was not accused of a crime. The policewere called to do a “welfare check” because Mr. Campbell was distraught over hisbrother’s death and family members were worried about him. We feel that his deathresulted from flawed police policies, incomplete or inappropriate training, incompletecommunication, and other issues with the police effort. We feel strongly thatsomething must be done to correct this, and the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) shouldbe held responsible for this tragedy. However, the charter of the grand jury does notinclude indicting or censuring the Portland Police Bureau. We are hoping you canhelp make the police department aware of the problems we have observed. Thepublic also needs to know what went wrong, and what measures will be taken toinsure that this never happens again. We also feel that the recorded Grand Jurytestimony should be made public -- in particular, that of Officer Frashour. Bybringing information to the public, perhaps others will come to understand why thereis no indictment. With understanding and a plan for correction, perhaps thecommunity unrest over this case will ease; perhaps the healing process can begin.As you know, it is not the Grand Jury's responsibility to assess actual guilt, assignpunishment, or try a case. A grand jury is chartered to determine if, based on theevidence presented with no contradictory evidence, we feel that a jury would find thedefendant guilty of the crimes with which they are charged. In the end, we wereconvinced that a jury would not convict Officer Frashour. In fact, we could find nocrime committed. The use of deadly force by a police officer is considered justifiableunder very specific conditions, and in this case the applicable conditions werewhether or not Officer Frashour believed he or his fellow officers were in imminentdanger. We found Officer Frashour to be a serious and sincere young man who wascredible and honest in his testimony. In our deliberations we came to agree that hegenuinely believed Aaron Campbell was armed and dangerous, and was running for"hard cover" in order to fire on the police. Later it was found that Mr. Campbell was
 
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not armed, and that, sadly, will be Officer Frashour's issue to resolve within himself,probably for a very long time.The Sandy Terrace police scene had many problems. Here are a few of ourobservations.The command post where Officer Quackenbush was negotiating with Mr.Campbell via telephone, and the tactical unit in the middle of the parking lot,were only a few feet apart. Those feet were not in the line of any potentialdanger from Mr. Campbell in his apartment. Yet no one communicated to thetactical group, at least not to Officer Frashour, the status of the negotiation orthat Mr. Campbell had specifically and emphatically said he was not going tohurt himself or anyone else. We felt this was a critical error, as knowledge of Campbell’s statements could have made a difference in Ron Frashour’sdecision to use or not use deadly force. His testimony indicated he made hisdecision to shoot based on the information he had gleaned from PPB’s CADsystem while he was coming to the site and what he learned when he firstarrived on the scene, prior to setting up his gun in the middle of the parkinglot.Apparently there were insufficient personnel on site to address the issues of aperson in the midst of an intense personal tragedy, as was Mr. Campbell. If ever there were a case that required specially trained individuals and requiredhandling with kid gloves, this was the one. No family members were broughtin to help him. The closest was Officer Quackenbush, who was very effectiveas a negotiator with Mr. Campbell, and who clearly offered him moral supportand sympathy.The grand jury heard testimony from 30 witnesses or more, but one person wedid not hear was Sgt Reyna, the officer in charge of managing the scene.While we did not need her testimony to determine if Officer Frashour should beheld over for a crime, Sgt Reyna’s testimony may have provided informationthat could answer some of the questions regarding why this incident went sowrong. It seems that each officer was given his or her small piece of thepuzzle, but there was little evidence to indicate they were communicating andworking as a team instead of as a group of individuals. Officer Frashour did notknow about the negotiation phone calls with Mr. Campbell, or much aboutCampbell’s mental state. Additionally, the tactical team did not take properadvantage of the K9 team on site. The purpose of the K9 team is to use thedog to take down the target, giving the police additional time to reach andsubdue the subject. Testimony varied concerning whether the fatal shotpreceded, coincided with, or followed the release of the dog, though OfficerElias clearly stated he released his dog prior to the fatal shot being fired. Inhis testimony, Officer Frashour stated that he never saw the dog running toattack Mr. Campbell. Had these two groups been better coordinated, OfficerFrashour might have delayed his shot, waiting to see if the dog couldsuccessfully take Mr. Campbell down.We learned that the AR 15 rifle is used to provide additional safety for thepolice by allowing the officers to be distanced from potential harm. The bulletsused are not “armor piercing”, do not pierce walls, and thus do not causecollateral damage. The shooter is trained to aim for large muscle groups of the target to ensure the target is taken down.

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