Man killed by police was waving an umbrella

From The Oregonian, March 22, 2005 – not available online

Ronald R. Riebling Jr. held an umbrella wrapped in a cloth when he came out of his ex-girlfriend’s duplex early Sunday. Portland Officer Terry Kruger thought the concealed object was a rifle and fired one shot, killing Riebling, police said Monday.

Kruger, a law enforcement sniper and member of the Portland Police Bureau’s Special Emergency Reaction Team, fired his M-16 rifle, striking Riebling, 40, in the head.

The shooting at 4:25 a.m. ended what began as a domestic dispute and turned into a hostage standoff in the 9600 block of Southeast Woodstock Boulevard. It was Kruger’s second fatal shooting in 16 years with the bureau.

Teresa Bartle, Riebling’s former girlfriend, called police at 1:32 a.m. and was outside when officers arrived. Her three children remained inside the duplex with Riebling during the standoff. None was injured.

The shooting occurred as SERT officers were taking position around the duplex, freeing up the East Precinct patrol officers who had surrounded the duplex immediately after the call.

In an interview with detectives Monday, Kruger said he saw Riebling come to the door of his ex-girlfriend’s unit holding what he thought was a rifle and swinging it in front of him “as if he was aiming at officers from the hip,” Sgt. Brian Schmautz said.

Riebling went back inside. SERT officers said they heard someone inside yell that Riebling had a gun. When Riebling stepped out again, Kruger saw Riebling turn toward him and raise the object to his shoulder as if he were aiming a rifle at him, Schmautz said.

A Multnomah County grand jury will hear the case next week. Kruger, 39, is off duty on paid administrative leave.

Riebling and Bartle had lived together at the duplex since Jan. 5 but recently broke up. Riebling had left the unit and knocked on neighbor Carol Bales‘ door about 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

Bales said Riebling smelled of alcohol, seemed depressed and complained that he had “just finished paying all the bills” and wanted his former girlfriend to stop nagging him. He asked whether Bales’ husband would go get a beer with him.

Instead, Riebling returned to Bartle’s unit and forced his way in, police said. As Bartle dialed 9-1-1, Riebling pulled the phone away, interrupting the call. Police raced to the unit, found Bartle outside and made phone contact with Riebling, who told them he had an assault rifle and was monitoring their activity on surveillance cameras he had around the home.

East Precinct acting Sgt. Scherise Bergstrom, a crisis-intervention team officer, stood outside, talking to Riebling by phone for more than two hours, police and witnesses said. Riebling said he wasn’t “going back to prison” and talked about blowing up the house and the block, police said.

Neighbors said they heard Bergstrom trying to persuade Riebling to let Bartle’s children — ages 12, 18 and 22 — out. At one point, the eldest walked out with his hands in the air, witnesses said.

At another point, Riebling stepped out and tried to smash the light fixture outside with his fist, said Aster Fenlon, who was watching from the house next door.

Police said they fired two beanbag rounds at Riebling with no effect, and he slipped back inside. Witnesses said that Riebling was inside before police fired and that the beanbag rounds missed.

Police activated the Special Emergency Response Team at 3:35 a.m. The SERT officers were told that Riebling had said he had a rifle and explosives. They also learned that three others, including his former girlfriend, said he had a gun, Schmautz said.

After the shooting, police found no weapons on Riebling or in the duplex.

Court records show Riebling had assault, drunken driving and drug convictions dating to 2001. He had been ordered to undergo domestic-violence and anger-management counseling, as well as mental health evaluations.

He had been on parole since his release from prison March 31 after serving time for fourth-degree assault, harassment and driving while intoxicated. In October 2002, he was arrested on an accusation that he struck his stepfather with a baseball bat in front of his 5-year-old son, according to court papers.

Beverly Reed, his mother, said Monday that she doesn’t understand why police killed her son. “I think the police department needs to have something in place where they train these officers to shoot below the belt and not to kill,” Reed said.

Schmautz said police are trained “to stop the threat.” Once the grand jury’s review is done, police will conduct an internal investigation and evaluate whether the officer acted according to police policy

In 1996, a Multnomah County grand jury concluded that Kruger was justified in using deadly force when he shot 20-year-old Deontae J. Keller in the back on Feb. 28 in North Portland.

Keller was suspected of involvement in a drive-by shooting that wounded a man. Less than an hour later, police pulled over the car Keller was driving. Police said he came out of the car with a gun, turned and ran. Kruger fired a single shot, killing him.

A federal lawsuit that Keller’s father, Joe Keller, filed against the city was dismissed.