Portland approves $1.6M Chasse settlement

From KGW.com, July 28, 2010

The Portland City Council made final approval Wednesday of a $1.6 million settlement with the family of James Chasse Jr., who died in police custody in 2006.

Chasse died September 17th of that year after he was tackled by police officers who chased him for allegedly urinating in public. He was also shot with a stun gun.

In addition to the financial settlement, the city will be releasing reports on the case which had not been made public. Chasse family attorney Tom Steenson said release of those reports will go through a brief legal process and should be ready for viewing in mid-August.

The Chasse family issued a statement through Steenson. It reads in part:


“We are looking forward, finally, to seeking some personal closure to a gaping, four year-old wound. It has been very difficult to continue dealing with what happened to James as a public matter, and we feel it is very important, finally, to seek some private peace.

Our lawyers advised us against the City’s final offer. While they were certain that we would prevail and likely be awarded much more in monetary damages at trial, we felt there was little more for us to gain by proceeding through trial.

It had become clear that the policy issues we feel are important (and sought to change in the lawsuit) would not be addressed in a trial or through settlement. The previously concealed facts will be made available to the public as part of the settlement.

The trial promised to be at least three weeks long. We, James’s family, would have had to, once again, endure the retelling of his violent, painful, and needless death, witnessing dozens of gruesome autopsy photos of James, listening to days of testimony about how and why his bones broke, and enduring false and offensive attacks on James and the mentally ill.

The truth is that a civil suit seems to be the only form of justice that our local system will allow when police are involved in a killing. Clearly, the local criminal justice system and the Police Bureau’s internal disciplinary groups, both working hand-in-hand daily with the police themselves, are not currently capable of pursuing the public’s interests with these issues.”

Officers took him first to the Multnomah County jail but a nurse told them Chasse could not be booked in his condition. He died on the way to the hospital.

An autopsy revealed that Chasse suffered 26 rib fractures and a punctured lung. The autopsy concluded the death was caused by blunt force trauma to the chest.

Of the $1.6 million, about $766,000 will be paid immediately by the city and about $276,000 by the city’s insurance company. The balance will be paid out by the insurance company in monthly payments over the next five to seven years to attorneys for the Chasse family.

The family had already settled for $925,000 with Multnomah County for a sheriff’s deputy involved in the death, and a reported $600,000 with an ambulance company.