Portland police officer who fatally shot man armed with knife: ‘I didn’t want to shoot the guy’

Portland police officer who fatally shot man armed with knife: ‘I didn’t want to shoot the guy’ – Oregonian, May 15, 2015

[Neither the Oregonian story below or the grand jury evidence attached explain that Chris Healy had schizophrenia and was in a mental health crisis at the time of his shooting.]

DOWNLOAD – Transcript of Proceedings of the Grand Jury investigation of the death of Christopher Healy

When a burglary suspect lunged at him with a double-bladed knife, Portland police Officer Thomas Clark at first tried to fend him off using martial arts and knife-fighting skills that he had developed since he started training at age 5.

Clark was the first officer to respond to a burglary in progress call March 22 at Southeast 130th Avenue and Sherman Street. The call was dispatched at 5:27 p.m., and within four minutes, Clark had fired two shots at the suspect, who had charged at him with a knife, according to police.

Christopher Ryan Healy died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Moments before firing, Clark had swatted Healy’s hand away as the suspect tried to “cut my throat,” Clark testified before a grand jury investigating the shooting.

“I didn’t want to shoot the guy. I didn’t want to shoot anybody,” Clark said, “but he forced me to shoot him, because even after a few warnings, he came after us again with the knife.”

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office released 203-pages of grand jury transcripts Friday afternoon, three weeks after the panel found no criminal wrongdoing by police in the shooting.

Healy, 36, had taken a Greyhound bus from his home in Erie, Pennsylvania, to Seattle eight days before the shooting, after officers in Pennsylvania had found a methamphetamine lab in his parents’ home, police said. Healy then met a young woman in Seattle who brought him to her mother’s apartment in Portland.

The burglary call stemmed from a simmering neighbor dispute. Jean-Paul Kodegui, a Sherman Street resident, confronted Healy after seeing him walking around Kodegui’s truck, yard and then trying to open the door to his duplex. Kodegui thought his neighbor had sent Healy to rob him.

“I called police to find out ‘why you come to open my door?’ That’s what I want the police to find out,” Kodegui testified.

Kodegui, who was armed with a Taser, got into a scuffle with Healy, trying to hold him until police arrived. He said Healy kept telling him, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” and that Healy hadn’t broken into his duplex, but rather bumped into its door.

Police, believing there was a burglary in progress, raced to the scene. As Clark pulled onto Southeast Sherman Street from 130th Avenue, he saw two men fighting by a fence across the street from Kodegui’s duplex.

Clark said he was yelling at the 911 caller to let go of the other man. Clark said he wanted to break up the fight before someone got hurt, but was looking for a cover officer to arrive.

He said the 911 caller and suspect separated, but Clark was concerned because he couldn’t see Healy’s hands. Clark said he yelled, “Let me see your hands.” Clark described Healy as making hissing sounds like a “cornered badger,” according to his testimony. Clark saw Healy drop a piece of clothing that had been concealing his hands, and watched his right hand come up grasping a knife.

“And without warning, just as quick as I perceived that he was holding a knife, the knife came towards my throat,” Clark testified.

The officer craned his neck back, and quickly raised his left hand and slapped Healy’s hand down toward his chest, “because I didn’t want to get cut.”

Clark said he drew on martial arts, stick and knife-fighting training that he’s had since he was a boy growing up in the Philippines. He tried to “redirect” the knife and create distance.

As he stepped back, he pulled out his handgun, pointed it at Healy and ordered him to drop the knife, Clark said. Healy didn’t and kept charging toward the officer, Clark and other witnesses testified.

“He’s coming toward me making a figure-8 motion with the knife,” Clark said. The officer then realized that Healy’s knife was a double-bladed karambit, not a box cutter as he had first thought.

Clark said he’s trained with a karambit. “I carry one, and I know what they can do,” he told the grand jury.

Clark contends that Healy must have had training on knife-fighting, noting that Healy made two knife strikes toward him from what’s considered 10 basic knife strikes.

“He then made eye contact with me, made this hissing sound again, and basically charged myself and Officer (Royce) Curtiss,” Clark testified.

Healy was coming at him in a “dead sprint, and he fired two consecutive gunshots at him, he said.

“If I didn’t stop him from charging towards me, I knew that he was going to seriously hurt me or kill me or my partner,” Clark said.

Curtiss had pulled up to the scene shortly after Clark arrived. He said he and Clark just walked up to the two men struggling in the hope of taking the suspect into custody. As soon as the two men separated, the suspect pulled out a knife, he said.

“It was so unexpected, how fast he pulled the knife out that –I mean, I didn’t see it coming,” Curtiss said. He drew his handgun and yelled at Healy to drop the knife as he retreated, he said.

“We were both trying to just retreat out of there, and he was continually coming forward,” Curtiss said of Healy. “He was closing the distance as I am trying to back pedal, and he was just right on top of us immediately.”

Curtiss heard Clark fire two shots. Curtiss didn’t fire.

When asked why he didn’t, Curtiss testified that he was concerned that the 911 caller was in his backdrop.

After Clark’s two shots, Healy didn’t fall. He stayed on his feet. Curtiss saw the knife on the ground and kicked it to the left. He then reholstered his firearm, drew his stun gun and fired the Taser.

“I knew he didn’t have the knife in his hand still, but I was still very concerned. … He’s still on his feet. …To me, he’s still a threat, but I chose to use a lower level of force. I Tasered him. It was super effective,” Curtiss testified.

Four David Douglas High School teenagers who were walking to a park to kick a soccer ball around witnessed the shooting.

Alex Barrera, 16, said he saw the two men fighting. One was threatening to call the cops and telling the other not to move because he had a Taser, while the other man repeated, “I’m sorry, sir. I am sorry,” Barrera testified.

Joel Elana, 15, said he saw police arrive and heard officers ordering one man to drop the knife about four or five times. Elana told grand jurors that the man with the knife started “running at one of the cops” and was shot.

Healy, still conscious and groaning at the scene, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. He was shot twice, once in the chest and once in his bicep.

The confrontation was precipitated by a longstanding argument between Kodegui and a neighbor, Tera Harris. Harris showed up for the grand jury hearing, but declined to testify about what occurred, saying she feared retribution from police, according to the transcript.

Harris told The Oregonian/OregonLive shortly after the shooting that her daughter had met Healy on a street in Seattle and later invited him to stay at Harris’ apartment. Harris said she had allowed Healy to use a shower in her home shortly before the shooting took place.

Clark told grand jurors he joined the Portland Police Bureau six years ago, shortly after returning from a U.S. Army deployment in Iraq. He’s now a reservist. Curtiss has been with the bureau nine years, after spending four years in the Marine Corps.