Film will examine Chasse’s life, death

Documentary – “Alien Boy” deals with the case of James Chasse Jr., who died in police custody

From The Oregonian

The Mental Health Association of Portland will be working with a Portland filmmaker to produce a documentary about the life and death of James P. Chasse Jr.

The title, “Alien Boy,” refers to a song written by a friend of Chasse, Greg Sage, the lead singer of The Wipers band. As a young teenager, Chasse described The Wipers as “my fave local band” in a magazine he wrote called “The Oregon Organism.”

Sage dedicated the lyrics from his 1979 song “Alien Boy” as a memorial to Chasse, a 42-year-old man who died in police custody Sept. 17, 2006. Chasse, who suffered from schizophrenia, died of broad-based trauma to his chest after police struggled to take him into custody in the Pearl District.

Sage’s lyrics are: “Go and grab your gun; Got him on the run; Cause he’s an alien; They hurt what they don’t understand.”

The association will work with Portland filmmaker Brian Lindstrom to make the film, and follow the family’s civil case against the city and police.

The federal lawsuit, pending in U.S. District Court in Portland, contends that the officers involved violated Chasse’s civil rights and that the city has a pattern of failing to discipline officers involved in use of deadly force.

Lindstrom has made two other documentaries, called “Kicking,” about drug detoxification in Portland, and “Finding Normal,” about recovery from drug addiction, also made in Portland.

“Our hope is to create a film powerful enough to persuade other cities to make the changes Portland did after James died — before someone like James in their hometown dies,” said Jason Renaud, a friend of Chasse’s and a volunteer board member of the mental health association.

The film’s Web site lists the following positive changes made since Chasse’s death: the requirement that all Portland officers complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training; Multnomah County’s call for a sub-acute center to treat people suffering from a mental health crisis; and changes to the Portland Police Bureau’s Use of Force policy that encourages officers to use the “least force reasonably necessary.”

More information about the film can be obtained at the Web site: All donations to the Mental Health Association of Portland this year will go toward the production of the film.

“Only a full, public account of who James was and what happened to him can prevent another tragedy,” the film’s Web site says.