Police officer Dane Reister and city of Portland are targets of lawsuit over beanbag shotgun shooting

From the Oregonian, December 3, 2011

The attorney for William Kyle Monroe, who was shot this summer by a Portland officer who mistakenly loaded his beanbag shotgun with lethal ammunition, intends to sue the city and the officer for gross negligence, assault, false arrest and violation of Monroe’s civil rights.

Monroe will be seeking $533,000 on the state claims, the maximum allowed to be recovered against a local public body under state law, and up to $ 5 million on the federal civil rights claim, according to a tort notice filed Friday.

Monroe was seriously wounded. One of the shots severed the sciatic nerve in his left leg, which will prevent the 21-year-old from “ever running or walking normally again,” attorney Thane Tienson wrote in the notice.

Portland Officer Dane Reister shot Monroe June 30 in Southwest Portland. Last month, a Multnomah County grand jury indicted Reister on third- and fourth-degree assault charges for the shooting. The district attorney’s office added a negligent wounding charge against Reister. Reister, 40, a 15-year bureau veteran, is on paid leave.

The indictment marked the first time in the county’s history of a grand jury bringing criminal charges against a Portland officer for the use of force in the line of duty. It also comes as the Police Bureau’s use of force is under federal review.

City Attorney Linda Meng said Friday she had not seen the claim and could not comment. Tienson said city attorneys have approached him, seeking to settle before a lawsuit is filed.

Reister’s lawyer, Janet Hoffman, has argued in court documents that the Portland Police Bureau’s inadequate policies, practices and training in the handling of less-lethal ammunition and beanbag shotguns contributed to the shooting. Tienson draws on that, arguing that the city failed to adopt a system “sufficient to meet basic safety standards,” the notice says.

Tienson argues that Monroe had not committed a crime when Reister approached him on Southwest Naito Parkway, and should have recognized his client suffered from a mental impairment.

“At the time of this incident. Mr. Monroe’s bipolar condition resulted in his feeling occasional paranoia, which should have been apparent to a properly-trained officer responding to this call,” Tienson wrote.

According to the claim, Reister had been responding to a 9-1-1 call about a person who appeared intoxicated and was acting strangely in Lair Hill Park. The callers told police that the man had left the park. A representative of a children’s program at the park also reported that he saw Monroe “cupping a small pocket knife in his right sleeve,” the claim says.

Reister spotted Monroe, who fit the suspect’s description, on Southwest Naito Parkway. He commanded Monroe to stop and get down. When Monroe failed to comply, Reister retrieved his beanbag shotgun from his car.

Monroe ran from the officer. Monroe’s lawyer alleges that Reister never told Monroe he was under arrest, and without probable cause, demanded Monroe to empty his pockets and get down on the ground. He also questioned why other officers didn’t use their Tasers if Monroe posed an immediate threat.

“Mr. Monroe begged not to be shot, turned, then moved away to avoid being shot, but Officer Reister continued to close his distance rapidly firing four live rounds striking Mr. Monroe’s body,” the claim says. A fifth round ejected. Reister, through his attorney, has said he was unaware he fired lethal rounds until after Monroe was on the ground.

The wounds fractured Monroe’s pelvis, punctured his bladder, abdomen, and colon, and caused injuries to his right and left legs.

“Mr. Monroe very nearly bled to death at the accident scene, lost consciousness and required three transfused units of blood and a unit of platelets,” Tienson wrote. Monroe is unable to flex his left foot and great toe due to nerve injury, and has permanent scars on his buttocks, abdomen and legs.

Monroe’s economic damages to date exceed $100,000, the claim says. But he’ll also be seeking damages for the “severe emotional injury” and “exacerbation of his underlying psychological condition,” for which he’ll continue to require treatment and medication, the notice says.