The Portland Police killed another suspect Tuesday. He had shot at them when they arrived, and missed.
Presumably they then told him to come out of the building from which he had fired the shot. He did. He carried a rifle. He was shot and killed.
A man in his 50s was shot and killed by a Portland Police officer early Tuesday morning after East Precinct officers responded to the report of a disturbance and shooting at a residence at Southeast 148th Avenue and East Burnside Street.
Preliminary information indicates that the suspect was armed with a rifle at the time of the shooting and that he earlier fired at officers, possibly from a handgun, prior to coming out of the residence with the rifle. After the shooting, medical efforts to save the suspect were not successful and he died at the scene.
No officers were injured during the encounter and nobody was injured in the initial shooting, which prompted the 9-1-1 call at 10:54 p.m. The Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) and the Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) were responding to the scene to assist East Precinct officers but were not yet in place when the suspect left the residence, armed with the rifle.
The accounts of police shootings, as Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch has frequently mentioned, have to be carefully parsed, both for what they say and what they do not say.
This account does not say that the man, stepping out of the house with a rifle, shot at the police. If he had, presumably it would have found mention. So, we have him coming out of the house, holding a rifle. The usual scene is, that the police told him to drop the gun.
The most likely scenario is, that he did not, although, as I see reason to suppose, he didn’t shoot at the police with it, either.
But they did. They shot and killed him.
When I discussed this incident with my 18-year-old son, he found it perfectly plausible that the police could be considered justified in shooting and killing someone who posed a threat — to them, if to no one else.
That is what I ask, ladies and gentlemen of the present day: that the police not be considered justified in killing a suspect in custody. The guy was in the house, and he came out. He has voluntarily placed himself, this suspect, in a much more vulnerable position, by coming out of the house. What needed to happen was to continue the process of de-escalating the threat to the public (and the police officers).
He carried a rifle. The point was, not to kill him but to arrest him. Alive. (According to the BBC about one thousand suspects were shot and killed in the U.S. in 2015, about 100 of whom were unarmed.)
Update 16 December 2016:
This appeared in the Oregonian today: the victim of the police homicide was 56-year-old Steven Wayne Liffel, who has two grown sons.
Liffel had no apparent history of mental health problems, according to Portland police detectives. He had no criminal history in Oregon and only a few driving infractions, court records show.
Public records show he was from Marysville, California, where he worked as a concrete mason.
All lives matter, we might say, but people with no previous police records ought not to be shot out of hand. The article reported, concerning the officer Lawrence Keller, who killed him:
Keller has been involved in two previous officer-involved shootings. In October 2000, he was one of four officers who shot and killed Justyn Gallegos. In January 2006, Keller shot Dennis Lamar Young with a Taser after Lt. Jeffrey Kaer shot Young twice, killing him.
Since this is Officer Keller’s third fatality in his time on the Portland police force, some degree of suspicion of his deliberation and effort to conserve life is warranted, it seems to me.