Prosecutor joins investigation of officer’s statements in Chasse case

From the Oregonian, November 13 2008

Norm Frink, Chief Deputy District Attorney

Norm Frink, Chief Deputy District Attorney

A Multnomah County prosecutor will work with Portland police to determine whether an officer lied during the 2006 criminal investigation into the death of James F. Chasse Jr.

“We have an allegation that somebody’s untruthful in a criminal investigation, and we’re going to make that determination one way or another,” said Norm Frink, a chief deputy district attorney.

Chasse, a 42-year-old man suffering from schizophrenia whom police say appeared to be urinating against a tree, died after he ran from officers and was knocked to the ground in the Pearl District. Three officers then struggled to handcuff him.

He was taken to jail, but jail staff refused to book him because of his physical condition, and he died in police custody on the way to a hospital. Chasse sustained 26 rib fractures and died from broad-based blunt force trauma to his chest, the state medical examiner’s office said.

The current investigation arose after the Chasse family attorney late last month released an enhanced jailhouse video that captured Portland Officer Christopher Humphreys’ earliest statements about what occurred when Chasse was arrested Sept. 17, 2006.

In the video from that day, Humphreys can be heard telling a sheriff’s deputy that “we tackled him” and Chasse landed “hard,” while Humphreys’ partner, Multnomah County sheriff’s Deputy Bret Barton is seen imitating a “bear hug.” That account appears to contradict what Humphreys told Portland detectives in a police investigation three days later.

Humphreys said then that he shoved Chasse down with both his forearms against Chasse’s back — following police training. Humphreys also told detectives he fell onto the sidewalk, past Chasse, according to police transcripts.

Late last month, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer asked internal affairs investigators to examine the enhanced video and review the transcripts from the criminal investigation to check for inconsistencies.

That review continues, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said today.