Mom says Otis was depressed, delusional

From, June 8, 2010

Keaton Otis spent the last months of his life mostly alone in his bedroom suffering from delusion and depression, his mother told a Multnomah County grand jury.

Otis shot a police officer May 12 during a traffic stop near Lloyd Center and died in a hail of return gunfire.

In May, a Multnomah County grand jury decided there was no criminal liability on the part of the police. A 708-page transcript of the jury proceeding and audio of the 9-1-1 calls were released Monday.

The grand jury report verified that a bullet fired by Otis struck Officer Christopher Burley. And the Albina Ministerial Alliance renewed its call Tuesday for a review of Portland Police Bureau shootings, both by the city and the FBI.

Felesia Otis said her son started acting strangely in 2008, suggesting that people were underneath the house planting listening devices, she told grand jurors. He would point at neighbors on the sidewalk or lawns and question why they stood there.

She suggested to Keaton that they get medical help for him. “Keaton, we need to talk to somebody,” she told jurors. “You need some help.”

She said Keaton realized something was amiss, but he focused on his depression. She focused on the delusional behavior, which she feared was bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

After seeing a therapist, he started taking anti-psychotics and anti-depressants.

The therapist would change the amounts or types of drugs, she said. Always a creative person, her son felt that the drugs stifled his artistic abilities and he stopped taking the drugs.

Last November, Keaton retreated to his bedroom and largely stopped talking and eating, she said. The only meals he would eat were ones taken to his room, she said. He would have stilted conversations with her and his father. He stopped talking to cousins he used to have animated conversations with.

He dropped about 50 pounds off his 6 foot 4 frame, to 155 pounds that day he died.

In the autopsy, Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson told grand jurors she was startled by how thin Otis was, describing him as “extremely slim, very slender, with long thin fingers and toes.”

Felesia Otis said she and husband feared for Keaton’s life. They wanted to have him committed, but current medical practices and laws said that without an imminent threat to his life, that was not possible.

She told jurors a therapist told her “basically, you are just going to have to wait until a crisis comes up before you are going to be able to get him in.”

Keaton did manage some outings, she said. He would take her Toyota (the one he was driving during the shooting) and go to the store. She attended a seminar where the suggestion was made that such trips were mentally healthy, as the delusional person would see everyday, normal life.

He would regularly go to a convenience store, purchase a bag of Doritos and go to Pier Park in North Portland, sitting quietly by himself before returning in about an hour, she said.

Police did tell her of a confrontation Keaton had where he threatened another man with a baseball bat. Keaton denied it took place, she said, then walked into his bedroom. She did check her car after that to make sure he wasn’t carrying a bat.

She and her husband didn’t worry about the incident too much. A year earlier, Keaton had been ticketed for parking illegally and had no problems with the police officer who issued the citation.

But they realized Keaton was in need of serious mental help. On Monday, May 10th, an appointment was made for that Thursday with a nurse practitioner. Her son died Wednesday.

Felesia Otis wept as she explained to the grand jury the difficulty of having a relative who needs help, but families unable to intervene in a meaningful way.

“You are suffering,” she told jurors. “The body is there. But they are not. There is a part of them that’s gone a little bit every day.”

Earlier, she described Keaton’s upbringing.

As a baby, he skipped the babbling and started speaking clearly, with full words. He went to Sabin grade school, then Buckman Elementary, an arts magnet school. His circle of friends included students from Southeast Asia, Africa, Mexico and Russia. He took Japanese as an elective.

In middle school, he entered a program called the Prospective Gents Club, which grooms boys to become responsible adults.

She and her husband are devout Christians, she told jurors, and a signature day in Keaton’s life was a trip to Lincoln City at age 18 to be baptized in the Pacific Ocean. Into adulthood, her son was would always give thanks before a meal, even at the height of his depression. She said Keaton is in Heaven.

Jurors were clearly touched by her testimony.

“I want to applaud you and your husband for doing a wonderful job,” one juror told her.

“Don’t stop as a wife and mother . . . and most of all, as a woman,” another told her.

A third told her, “please, for us, stay strong.”