Lawsuit demands firing of officer who mixed up ammo, shot and severely injured man in 2011

Officer Dane Reister

Officer Dane Reister

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian, April 11, 2013

Portland Police Officer Dane Reister should lose his job for suddenly firing a beanbag shotgun that he mistakenly loaded with lethal rounds at a man obviously suffering from a mental illness, a federal lawsuit filed Thursday says.

READComplaint – William Kyle Monroe v City of Portland et al (PDF, 573KB)

The attorney for William Kyle Monroe, wounded by Reister on June 30, 2011, accuses the officer, Police Chief Mike Reese and the city of Portland of violating Monroe’s civil rights through false arrest, assault and negligence.

The suit seeks more than $11 million in damages.

Monroe, who was 20 at the time and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, narrowly escaped bleeding to death only because OHSU Hospital was near the shooting scene, but he’s permanently disabled, his lawyer said.

The suit alleges that the police chief could have prevented such a mistake by prohibiting officers from mixing lethal ammunition with less-lethal munitions in their duty bags, as Reister did. Further, the suit contends, the bureau has failed to adequately discipline officers who are “pre-disposed” to using excessive force.

“Defendant Reister’s conduct was so extreme that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency, and it constituted conduct that a reasonable person would regard as intolerable in a civilized community,” Monroe’s attorney Thane Tienson wrote in the suit.

The suit calls on the court to order the Police Bureau to fire Reister and appoint an independent monitor to enforce the terms of the city’s pending agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on use of force policies, training and oversight. The reforms stem from a federal investigation last year that found Portland police engage in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness.

Nearly two years after the shooting, the police chief and city have not disciplined Reister, who remains on paid administrative leave while facing criminal charges, the suit notes. Reister has pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with third- and fourth-degree assault charges. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office added a negligent wounding charge. The indictment marked the first time in the county’s history that a grand jury brought criminal charges against a Portland officer for force used on duty.

“By their inaction, said defendants have condoned, ratified or otherwise turned a blind eye to defendant Reister’s extreme misconduct and demonstrated a deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s constitutionally protected rights,” Tienson wrote in the suit.

Janet Hoffman, Reister’s attorney, issued a statement after she informed the officer about the suit Thursday. “Officer Reister is thankful that Mr. Monroe survived and is recovering,” she said. “He is looking forward to the facts coming out at trial and fully explaining the situation.”

According to the suit, Monroe, who lives with his father in Hillsboro, had intended to drive to Bremerton, Wash., to visit his mother the day before the shooting, but became disoriented and was suffering from a paranoid mania.

He ended up in Lair Hill Park the next morning, where children from a day camp were playing. Monroe pulled discarded flowers out of a park garbage bin and tossed them near the children. Camp supervisors told Monroe to leave the park. Police received two 9-1-1 calls from camp officials. The camp director said in the second call that Monroe may have a pocket knife up his sleeve.

Reister responded to the call. He spotted Monroe on Southwest Naito Parkway, commanded him to stop and get down on his knees with his hands behind his head. Reister asked Monroe if he had any weapons, and Monroe emptied his pockets, discarding his miniature Swiss army knife, the suit says. Monroe put his hands behind his head, but asked why he should get on his knees. Reister grabbed his beanbag shotgun from his car, and two more officers arrived.

Monroe assured police he hadn’t done anything wrong as he backed away and then began running and yelled for help. Without warning, the suit says, Reister fired five times, emptying his clip. The fifth round jammed because of Reister’s “excessively rapid firing,” the suit says.

The shots fractured Monroe’s pelvis, punctured his bladder, abdomen and colon. The fourth shot, fired from less than 15 feet away, left a “softball-size hole in his left leg,” and severed the sciatic nerve, the suit says.

The next day, then-Mayor Sam Adams and Reese called the shooting a “tragic mistake.” The president of the Portland Police Association said the union would “stand by” Reister through the judicial process.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said Thursday night that the bureau can no discuss not pending lawsuit.

Four months after the shooting, Reese issued a new policy, requiring that beanbag ammunition be stored only in a carrier attached to the side or stock of the orange-painted, 12-gauge beanbag shotguns.

Five years earlier, the suit noted, Reister mistakenly fired a loaded riot-suppression launcher during training, injuring an officer posing as a protester with a smoke round.