6/10/2023 News Roundup


<<The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office says it no longer has the capacity or staffing to keep up with record numbers of mysterious deaths, murders and autopsy requests. So this summer, much of the often painstaking and taxing work will be shifted down to local counties – some haven’t staffed a medical examiner for years.

“That’s one of the new things for us, hiring a physician to serve as our county medical examiner,” said Dr. Teresa Everson, Interim Deputy Health Officer for Multnomah County.

Everson says the county received word of the changes this past February, spurring a whirlwind of planning to soon take on the work of determining causes of deaths, signing death certificates, and performing physical examinations of hundreds of bodies each year.

It comes as the county, in recent years, has dealt with a spike in deaths requiring more thorough investigations.

According to county data, since 2019, there’s been a nearly 40% increase in the number of deaths assigned to death investigators, and a 75% increase in cases requiring investigators to respond to death scenes.

According to Everson, some of the increase is tied to COVID-19.

Another big factor – drug addiction. “We’re seeing a year-over-year increase in overdose deaths, typically tied to fentanyl, many of them are polysubstance,” Everson said.

The county health department says the increased workload will require at least three new staff members, including a part-time physician to serve as the county medical examiner. At minimum, the county says it will need an additional $430,000 to fund the program and possibly more to hire other support staff.

Other costs could include paying fees to continue storing bodies at the state morgue.>>

<<The state medical examiner will still be charged with performing autopsies and handling extra-sensitive cases, like murders or the deaths of children and infants.>>



<<The Tigard Public Library canceled a Sunday book-reading event featuring one of Portland’s best-known drag queens out of public safety concerns, Tigard police said.

The event was canceled due to “repeated threats of violence,” according to a statement posted on social media by the Tigard Police Department.

The library will be closed Sunday out of “an abundance of caution,” police said.

Tigard police spokesperson Kelsey Anderson declined to say what the threats were or whether they knew who was responsible for them, citing an ongoing investigation. Plans for a sit-in protest of the reading, and a counter-protest in support of the event, circulated online in recent days.

Anderson said there will be an “increased police presence” at Tigard’s community Pride celebration and parade, which is scheduled to take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Drag Queen Storytime, sponsored by the city of Tigard, was going to feature Poison Waters reading stories about acceptance and diversity in celebration of Pride Month.

Kevin Cook has performed drag under the stage name Poison Waters for decades and served as the grand marshal of the 2023 Starlight Parade.

Cook said the decision to cancel the reading is disheartening, but that he understands the need to prioritize public safety. He said threats have come in for many of his shows over the years, but few of them have had any problems.

“We still continue to do them because giving in is not an option; letting somebody’s negativity win is not an option,” Cook said. “But this one was a little different, just a little stronger, and I’ll just say, uglier.”>>

<<Gabriel Buehler, chair of the Washington County Republican Party, said the local GOP has planned a “celebratory flag wave” in front of the Tigard Public Library during the time the reading was scheduled to take place.

He said the party was not involved in organizing the planned sit-in protest. He said he believed the threats of violence came from individuals planning to participate in the counter-protest.

“I’ve seen all across the media waves today, ‘threats of violence,’ and it’s kind of insinuated that parents were threatening violence,” Buehler said. “That’s not the case, this was Antifa.”

The Tigard reading is the second family-friendly Pride event in the Portland area to be canceled because of threats. In May, officials at Atkinson Elementary School canceled a scheduled Pride Fest, an optional after-school event intended to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.>>


<<A Southwest Washington man who frequently led conservative political protests in Portland that devolved into street fights is now suing the city for what his attorneys describe as political discrimination.

Joey Gibson, the founder of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday that a wide range of city and county officials violated his First Amendment speech rights when he was brought up on criminal charges related to a violent 2019 clash at a cider bar.

Gibson’s friend and fellow Patriot Prayer member Russell Schultz is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Multnomah County prosecutors brought Gibson and Schultz to trial last year on riot charges after the pair helped lead a group of far-right protesters on May Day 2019 to a bar frequented by leftist demonstrators.

Gibson and Schultz have acknowledged they went to the bar to film the bar patrons and provoke them into responding. Video from that day also shows Gibson helping to organize a fist fight between the bar bouncer and a far-right protester. Violence culminated when one of the people with Gibson, Ian Kramer, used a baton to knock out a bar patron. Kramer eventually pleaded guilty to riot and assault charges.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Souede said at the trial it was clear the Patriot Prayer members were provoking violence. “There is ample evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that the violence that erupted that day wasn’t an accident,” Souede said. “It was part of a plan, as Mr. Gibson is heard saying on the video.”

Still, Souede tossed the riot charges against Gibson and Schultz, saying he was “bewildered” that prosecutors in the district attorney’s office brought a riot charge to trial on the evidence they had. He said a lesser charge may have been appropriate in what he viewed as “an adult version of ‘I’m not touching you.’”

The lawsuit accuses a wide array of current and former Multnomah County and Portland officials, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell and two of his predecessors, as well as the prosecutors and detectives who worked the case against Gibson.

It accuses those officials of an “abusive misuse of governmental authority to punish political opponents” while ignoring actions by leftist demonstrators, which the lawsuit describes as “Antifa.” The lawsuit also states that Wheeler and the Portland media have defamed Gibson by describing him as a “violent, far-right extremist.”

Gibson’s lawyers allege that Portland police detectives opted not to arrest and charge patrons of the cider bar who allegedly kicked and spit on Gibson in 2019, despite him wanting to press charges later.

The lawsuit makes mention of a long series of other protests Gibson helped lead or participated in between May 2017 and May 2019, and at one point says the defendants engaged in a “conspiracy” to malign Gibson. As documented by OPB, Gibson’s protests were part of a broader, pitched political battle in Portland throughout Donald Trump’s presidency that often turned violent.

Gibson’s attorney, Angus Lee, said that they are seeking $100 million in damages from Portland and Multnomah County. Lee said his clients have also been targeted because of their views on “patriotism, Christianity, and limited government.”

The Portland city attorney’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation.>>



<<In a statement released to WW this afternoon, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson says she’s “directed the Health Department and County legal to analyze and update their recommendations on the ambulance response time issue, including decisions not to levy fines, a staffing pilot and all other alternatives with the hope of improving performance and ambulance response times with increased urgency.”

AMR recently won a contract to provide ambulance service in Washington County beginning in July. That, some fear, will further exacerbate AMR’s staffing crisis.

“We are also aware that AMR is expanding into Washington County, and it’s concerning that they are taking on new work while not providing adequate coverage for our community,” Pederson added.

AMR is proposing the county change its long-standing policy requiring two paramedics per ambulance. That proposal has the support of County Commissioner Sharon Meieran. “We need more ambulances, and AMR proposed a temporary solution that would turn things around in weeks,” she wrote on Twitter last night. “Multnomah County refused. As an ER doc, I beg the county to act.”

AMR wants to replace one of two paramedics per ambulance with emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, who have less training and are limited in what medical procedures they can perform.

That, says Multnomah County EMS medical director Dr. Jonathan Jui, is a recipe for disaster.

“When you have a critical patient, two paramedics or even more is optimal,” he tells WW. “It’s a patient safety issue.”

He also wondered whether AMR’s effort to change the policy was related to its new contractual obligations.

“There are approximately 250 AMR paramedics. If we go to one-plus-one staffing, a lot of those medics go to Washington County,” he said.>>



<<Portland Police will begin using aerial drones next week to help conduct certain investigations.>>

<<Portland Police say during the pilot project, they mainly expect to use drones to collect images from crash and crime scenes, noting footage can be “stitched together” to reconstruct scenes, which helps speed along investigations.>>

<<Oregon law limits the scope of how police can use unmanned aerial devices. Law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant to use drones, unless they’re being deployed to: investigate crashes and crime scenes; help with search and rescue efforts, or public emergencies; or in “exigent circumstances,” like bomb threats or hostage situations, according to state law.

The devices are not supposed to be used to randomly surveil people, or for crowd control during events such as protests.>>



<<The man fatally shot by police outside a Safeway two weeks ago pointed a gun at officers and possibly fired first, body-worn camera footage released Friday shows.

In the video, 43-year-old Joshua James Wilson clearly points what appears to be a gun at one officer while sprinting away from a grocery store and other officers, before gunshots erupt in rapid succession.

Police said Wilson fired his weapon first. A responding officer opened fire quickly after confronting Wilson.

The footage provides a newer and closer look at the May 30 shooting than has previously been shown to the public. A video recorded by a bystander and uploaded to social media showed multiple armed officers but did not capture Wilson.

The officers are not named in the video. The Vancouver Police Department did not identify which body camera belongs to which officer.

On Thursday, investigators named the involved officers: Vancouver detectives Colton Price and Aaron Yoder, Officer Brandon Riedel, and Clark County Sheriff’s Office detective Zach Nielsen.

The new footage shows what appears to be a uniformed officer hearing someone saying over the radio, “He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” By the time the video starts, the officer has already arrived at the west end of the shopping center. The officer parks his patrol car, confronts the running Wilson and yells “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!”

After Wilson is shot, officers can be seen in the video delivering medical aid.

According to court records, detectives had linked Wilson to a spate of criminal activity this spring, including multiple robberies. The 43-year-old had prior criminal convictions in both Oregon and Washington, including assault, theft, burglary and domestic violence.

Prior to the shooting, he was under Washington Department of Corrections supervision, court records show. And he was facing trial in Cowlitz County for allegedly being caught with guns and methamphetamine.

Wilson posted bail in Cowlitz County and traveled south to Clark County.

Vancouver police believed he and another man burglarized a local bowling alley and held up two convenience stores, court filings show.

On May 30, a Vancouver detective reportedly spotted Wilson driving near the shopping center around 5:30 p.m. and followed him. Soon, at least two more detectives arrived at the scene.

“The suspect was seen parking his vehicle and entering the Safeway,” investigators said in a statement. “Several minutes later, he was seen exiting the store. When he saw police, he dropped a bag of items, displayed a firearm and ran westbound through the parking lot.”

Footage from two other officers, dressed in plain clothes that is typical among detectives, is seen in the video as well. Both men are holding rifles and are crouched behind an unmarked vehicle before saying “Go! Go! Go!” and starting a foot chase.

One of the officers yells “Get down! Police! Get down! You’re gonna get shot!” as he runs, rifle in hand, across the parking lot.

Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori released the video at his own discretion. Per Washington law, neither his agency nor the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are part of the investigation into whether or not the shooting was justified. A team from agencies in Cowlitz County is leading that investigation.>>


<< New video released from Vancouver police bodycams shows what happened in the moments leading up to officers shooting and killing a suspect in a Vancouver Safeway parking lot who was wanted for multiple armed robberies.

The bodycam footage shows video from three different officers’ perspectives. >>

<<On May 30, a detective driving in the area of East Mill Plain Boulevard and North Andresen Road spotted a man he recognized as 43-year-old Joshua Wilson, a suspect in multiple, recent armed robberies, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

The man parked his car, entered the Safeway in that area and several minutes later, he was seen leaving the store, police said.

While he was in the store, more detectives arrived and appeared to be waiting for him outside.

Bodycam video then shows some officers running through the parking lot after him.>>

<<The suspect runs further across the parking lot as another officer gets out of his car. He has his gun drawn, and when Wilson points a gun at the officer, detectives fire at him, the video shows. At least 12 gunshots are heard in the video.

Shortly after, officers tried to give first aid to Wilson, but he didn’t survive.>>

<<Three Vancouver police detectives and one Clark County Sheriff’s deputy shot their weapons, the department said. They were identified as Detective Colton Price, Detective Aaron Yoder and Officer Brandon Riedel from the Vancouver Police Department, plus Detective Zach Nielsen from the sheriff’s office. They were placed on leave, which is standard protocol.

This is the first deadly police shooting since Vancouver officers started wearing body cameras in February.>>



<<A professional skateboarder blamed for dozens of graffiti cases across Portland has avoided jail time by cutting a plea deal with Multnomah County prosecutors.

Emile Laurent, 22, pleaded guilty to one felony count and three misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, according to court records. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining 21 counts of criminal mischief.

Laurent was sentenced Wednesday to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service and $6,800 in restitution.

Portland Police arrested Laurent in August 2022 for allegedly vandalizing buildings, walls and signs across Portland. Prosecutors said Laurent tagged public and private property with the moniker “TENDO” — thought to be shorthand for Nintendo.

After Laurent’s arrest last summer, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted “We will not allow Portland to be marred by graffiti and vandalism,” vowing to hold those responsible for the damage accountable.

Portland has seen a surge in graffiti complaints in recent years. In 2020, the city received 897 reports of graffiti, compared to 2,117 in 2021 and 5,260 in 2022.>>