2010 starts with officer-involved shootings, ends with more; 2011 begins the same way

By Jenny Westberg, Portland Mental Health Examiner

There were six officer-involved shootings in 2010. (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdxjeff/)

There were six officer-involved shootings in 2010. (Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pdxjeff/)

On Dec. 27, Portland police shot Marcus Lagozzino, 34, critically injuring him, in the sixth officer-involved shooting of 2010. Within a week, 2011 started with another officer-involved shooting – then another.

At 1:37 a.m. on Jan. 1, police arrested a man at Club 915 in downtown Portland. While interacting with the crowd, an officer opened fire. His action did not harm anyone – because he missed. (See The Portland Tribune, Jan. 3) Around 4 p.m. the same day, another officer-involved shooting took place. This time it resulted in the death of a 60-year-old man.

In 2010, there were the same number of officer-involved shootings as there were in 2009, 2008 and 2007, combined. Two of the victims were black. Four were white. All were in crisis from acute mental illness or untreated addiction. Except for Lagozzino, all are now dead.

Officer-Involved Shooting Victims, 2010

  • Dec. 27, 2010 – Marcus Lagozzino, 34
  • Dec. 17, 2010 – Darryel Dwayne Ferguson, 45
  • Nov. 23, 2010 – Craig Boehler, 46 (shot by police, but died from smoke inhalation)
  • May 12, 2010 – Keaton Dupree Otis, 25
  • Mar. 22, 2010 – Jack Dale Collins, 58
  • Jan. 29, 1010 – Aaron Marcell Campbell, 25

In Lagozzino’s case, police say they were advised he might be contemplating “suicide-by-cop.” The same thing was said of Campbell.

James Drylie, an ex-police captain who is now executive director of the School of Criminal Justice and Public Administration at Kean University in New Jersey, told The Oregonian that about a third of the 300 police shootings ruled justifiable each year could be characterized as “suicide-by-cop.”

“Bizarre” Term

Jason Renaud, of the Mental Health Association of Portland, objects to the term.

“That the [Portland Police Office of Public Information] uses and promotes the verbiage ‘suicide-by-cop’ is bizarre,” says Renaud. “It implies several conditions – all entirely false:
“1. That violent suicide is a rational, reasonable state of mind. That a suicidal person is determined and unswerving from suicide.
“2. That police officers are unwilling participants.
“3. That police officers have little or no choice but to comply with suicidal demands.
“4. That suicidal people repeatedly trick or connive or stage situations where they cause lethal force to be used against themselves.
“5. That because of fearsome trickery police officers are not responsible for their actions.”

But, says Renaud, “It’s important to remember that the vast majority of police contact comes without violence of any sort.” When it does happen, however, it’s most often someone in crisis because of acute mental illness or active addiction.

According to Renaud, “It seems such a problem of timing. The cops arrive in the midst of a crisis and ‘have no choice’ but to use violence. What if they came an hour earlier? Or a day earlier? What if there was a worthwhile community mental health system which would anticipate crisis and manage it versus stick their heads in the sand? What if that worthwhile community mental health system could come a day or a week or a month prior to the crisis?”

As for “suicide-by-cop,” Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch says, “No matter what they say, it is a homicide when one person (a cop or anyone else) kills another person using such violent means.”

And as for 2010, it ended sadly – just as it began.

Please note:

This article was updated Jan. 5 to clarify that the first officer-involved shooting of 2011 (at Club 915) did not result in injury or death. There was a death, but it was not a result of an officer’s weapon. Also, the article now includes new information: (1) the officer intentionally fired at someone; (2) he missed.

In the same incident, the date was corrected from Jan. 2 to Jan. 1.

My regrets for any confusion, and thanks to Dan Handelman for pointing it out. — JW