7/13/2023 News Roundup


<<The estate of a man shot and killed by a U.S. Marshals task force Sept. 3, 2020 is suing over his death, alleging the officers had no plan to arrest him without using deadly force.

Officers killed Michael Forest Reinoehl while attempting to arrest him in front of an apartment complex in Lacey, Washington, just outside of Olympia. Reinoehl, a self-described anti-fascist who had spent the summer of 2020 providing security for racial justice protesters in Portland, had been on the run for five days after he shot and killed far-right activist Aaron “Jay” Danielson in downtown Portland.

The warrant for his arrest had been issued hours before he was killed.

Reinoehl’s death sparked immediate controversy, both for its political context — then U.S. Attorney General William Barr said locating him was an “unmistakable demonstration that the United States will be governed by law, not violent mobs” — and because of the appearance of possible police negligence.

Official statements at the time claimed, alternatively, that Reinoehl had pointed a firearm at a deputy U.S. Marshal. Another claimed Reinoehl was in the process of pulling a firearm from his pocket when he was shot. Soon after the shooting, civilian witnesses told OPB and ProPublica the officers gave no warning, didn’t announce themselves, and rushed at Reinoehl in unmarked vehicles with no flashing lights.>>

<<The federal civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday names the United States, Washington state, Pierce County and the city of Lakewood. It also names the four officers who fired 40 rounds during the failed arrest attempt: Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies James Oleole and Craig Gocha, Lakewood Police officer Michael Merrill and Washington State Department of Corrections Officer Jacob Whitehurst.

The four officers were federally deputized members of the U.S. Marshals Violent Offender Task Force based out of Tacoma. The lawsuit claims the planning and execution of the attempted arrest was sloppy from the start and points to flawed information provided to task force members during a briefing on the search for Reinoehl.

“Information provided during the briefing included the inaccurate, misleading, incomplete, and/or out of context information, such as the claim that Reinoehl considered himself to be at ‘war’ with police,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges that briefing left out critical context about Reinoehl’s state of mind. The briefing didn’t mention Reinoehl had received death threats from the far right, that he had claimed self defense in the Danielson shooting or that Danielson also had a gun when Reinoehl shot and killed him.>>

<<The briefing also failed to include a plan for how task force members planned to arrest Reinoehl and a comprehensive plan for how they would communicate with each other. That omission proved critical as officers experienced radio problems in the moments before shooting Reinoehl. The lawsuit says that should have been predictable, since they were about 30 miles from Tacoma in Thurston County but operating on Pierce County radio frequencies. Instead, the communications plan slide in the briefing lists only “???” for primary and alternate communications channels.

“Radio communications between the individual defendants were delayed, poor-quality, garbled, hampered by static, and/or otherwise inadequate and unreliable for purposes of communicating during the attempt to ‘take’ Reinoehl,” the lawsuit says, citing the Thurston County investigation into the shooting.>>

<<The task force located Reinoehl based off a tip. After 45 minutes staking out the apartment where he was believed to be, Reinoehl walked outside and approached his Jetta parked out front.

The officers, split up among three cars, began issuing contradictory instructions over the garbled radio.

“At that point, the chain of command governing the individual Defendants, if there ever was any, broke down,” the complaint says.

One officer wanted to wait to arrest Reinoehl at a traffic stop. Based on records obtained by OPB, Oleole and Merrill made the decision to move in as Reinoehl reached his Jetta. According to the lawsuit, Oleole and Merrill accelerated toward the Jetta followed soon after by Gocha in a different car.

Oleole fired six rounds through his vehicle’s windshield at Reinoehl.

Witnesses said the vehicles had no emergency lights on. The complaint says the witnesses thought they were caught in a road rage incident or gang shooting. Reinoehl, who believed his home had recently been shot at by far-right extremists, had no way of knowing who was firing at him on the street, the lawsuit claims.

One witness described the officers to OPB as “buff white men dressed in khakis and ballistic vests and armed with rifles,” and said they looked more like right-wing militia than law enforcement officers.>>

<<According to the Thurston County investigator who managed the case, Oleole, Merrill, Gocha and Whitehurst fired 40 rounds, hitting Reinoehl five times. Other police rounds hit nearby vehicles, went through backyard fences to homes, and one went through the wall of a neighboring apartment.

Investigators found a .380 -caliber casing inside Reinoehl’s car but investigators were never able to find a round or determine if he had fired his handgun. According to the investigation into the shooting, Reinoehl had a loaded .380 pistol in his right front pocket when he was killed.

The lawsuit says Reinoehl never pulled the pistol from his pocket and there was no round in the chamber, suggesting he never fired it.

Thurston County investigators insist Reinoehl likely pulled the firearm from his pocket, fired one round, then put it back in his pocket in the span of about 15 seconds, while being fatally shot.

Reinoehl’s death, and Danielson’s before it, became political lightning rods in national politics as then-President Donald Trump was attempting to leverage anti-police sentiment in Portland to buttress his flagging poll numbers.

The night Reinoehl was killed, Trump took to Twitter to demand Portland police arrest the “cold blooded killer” of Jay Danielson. “Do your job, and do it fast,” he tweeted. A week later, Trump called the killing “retribution.”

In their written statements to investigators, the officers were aware of the political context and expressed bias against “antifa.”

“Antifa is known for its violence and hatred towards police,” Merrill wrote. “We were aware of ongoing riots in various cities, including Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, where violence and demonstrations against police were being conducted in the name of Antifa.”

In a press release Tuesday, attorneys for the estate said that after killing Reinoehl, the involved officers were not segregated and had over 10 days to confer before any of them gave a statement.

U.S. Deputy Marshal Ryan Kimmel — who had received the tip about Reinoehl’s whereabouts and assembled the task force Sept. 3 — did not give a statement to Thurston County investigators despite multiple requests.

The lawsuit claims the officers violated Reinoehl’s Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable seizure. It claims the United States and Kimmel were negligent in failing to adequately plan and control the failed operation. By failing to de-escalate, firing from vehicles, failing to adopt standard of care policies and actively obstructing an investigation, the U.S. Marshals breached the standard of care reasonable law enforcement officers are required to use when arresting citizens, the complaint says.

The estate is asking for compensation for Reinoehl’s pre-death pain and suffering, the violation of his civil rights and emotional damages inflicted on his children.>>



<<A Portland Police officer accused of assaulting a woman during a Portland protest in 2020 issued an apology.

This came after fourth-degree assault charges filed against officer Corey Budworth were dismissed last week.

“I acknowledge the physical and emotional harm my actions caused, and I’m committed to ensuring that I do not cause this kind of harm moving forward,” Budworth said in the video.

Budworth’s charges came after he hit, shoved, and knocked Teri Jacobs to the ground before hitting her in the face with a baton on the night of August 18, 2020.

Almost three years later, the apology video is part of what Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt calls a restorative justice process.

He said Jacobs and Budworth chose to pursue that path rather than a trial, and met with one another over a series of months to discuss the situation before reaching a resolution they both felt was satisfactory.

“For me, this case is emblematic of something that’s needed to be addressed for a long time in our community,” Schmidt said. “I think the fact that Teri and Corey Budworth could get together and have those conversations and that dialogue is hopefully symbolic of what we need as a community to heal.”

He said that if either party had chosen not to participate, the office would have prosecuted the case as normal and things would have been resolved through a trial.

However, Schmidt said, that route leaves bitter feelings on the table on both sides and can prevent true healing from taking place.

Juan Chavez with the Oregon Justice Resource Center represented Teri Jacobs in the case, and says this process has been a long time coming.

“A lot of people in the criminal legal world have been wanting a different alternative to what we know as what is known as the criminal punishment system,” he said. “That process has a way of still not making everybody whole, victims are left out, the public is left out of that process, and it’s largely left to the DA’s office to drive those prosecutions.”

Teri Jacobs released her own statement on the situation:

“After being attacked by Portland Police Officer Corey Budworth on August 18, 2020, I was grateful for the opportunity to tell him directly how his actions have affected me and continue to affect me through the restorative justice process. Although it can’t change what happened to me that night, he admitted that his actions were wrong and pledged to do better himself, as well as facilitate changes in the PPB that would help prevent this type of police brutality from happening in the future.”

Around a dozen cases have gone through this process in the county over the past year.

Jacobs also filed a civil suit against the City of Portland over this same incident and received a $50,000 settlement.>>


<<It’s rare to see a public apology from a police officer, but nearly three years after using a baton to strike a photojournalist in the head, Corey Budworth, an officer with the Portland Police Bureau, did just that.

In a recorded video released Tuesday, July 11, Budworth read a statement apologizing to Teri Jacobs for his use of force during a 2020 racial justice protest in Portland.

“I acknowledge the physical and emotional harm my actions caused, and am committed to ensure that I do not cause this kind of harm, moving forward,” Budworth said, noting the force used against Jacobs “could have been avoided.”

Budworth’s public apology was part of a restorative justice process stemming from a misdemeanor charge against him for fourth-degree assault. Restorative justice focuses on the impacts of harm done to victims of a crime, and aims to repair harm through mediation and accountability from the person responsible.

At the time of the incident, Officer Budworth was serving on PPB’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), a special unit assembled to respond to public disorder and protests. Budworth’s indictment was also rare. He was the first police officer to face charges for excessive use of force during protests, shocking the public and the Portland Police Bureau. After he was indicted by a grand jury, all members of the Rapid Response Team quit, in protest.>>

<<Video footage from that night depicts Budworth knocking Jacobs down with his baton, then using it to strike her in the face, as she tries to get up from the ground. >>

<<The court dismissed the case against Budworth last Friday, July 7, citing the restorative justice process that had taken place.

Budworth said the time spent with Jacobs gave him an opportunity “to reflect on what the events and time period meant to police, to protesters and the city at large.”

“I understand the harm that was caused was not limited to Ms. Jacobs and was felt by others in the community when there was a great distrust of law enforcement,” Budworth added.

Jacobs filed a separate civil lawsuit against Budworth and the Portland Police Bureau over the incident. The city eventually settled that suit for $50,000.

In a statement, Jacobs said she’s “grateful for the opportunity to tell [Budworth] directly how his actions have affected me and continue to affect me through the restorative justice process.”

“Although it can’t change what happened to me that night, he admitted that his actions were wrong and pledged to do better himself, as well as facilitate changes in the PPB that would help prevent this type of police brutality from happening in the future,” Jacobs stated.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, whose office initially moved to charge Budworth, said Portland has yet to fully heal from the trauma of 2020 and the social justice protests.

“This case represents a turning point. This resolution, through a restorative justice process, is a brave example of what healing can and should look like, and is reflective of the type of healing that is not always achievable solely through a traditional criminal justice response,” Schmidt said in a statement released by the D.A.’s Office.

“If a police officer and a protester can come together in dialogue, understanding, and healing, I believe our city can as well.”

Jacobs was assisted by the Oregon Justice Resource Center.

Juan Chavez, OJRC’s civil rights project director, said he hopes to see the same process used in future cases involving police and the public.

“We are hopeful that the [restorative justice] process is utilized in other ways beyond just between a single police officer and single victim,” Chavez told the Mercury. “Tens of thousands of people went into the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and were met with rampant police violence from the Portland Police Bureau. Those crimes against the public have gone unaddressed. While it’s unclear how one apology can heal a community after that, I’ll take a start when I get one.”>>



<<Three days after WW reported that the Multnomah County Health Department planned to begin distributing “smoking supples,” including tinfoil and straws, to fentanyl smokers in Portland, the county is suspending the program.

“Our health department went forward with this proposal without proper implementation protocols,” says County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “And in that light, I am suspending the program pending further analysis.”

Multnomah County health officials have been telegraphing the plan, which is similar to other harm reduction efforts across the country, in briefings to the county board as early as May. But after WW reported the details of the new initiative, which included plans to distribute tinfoil, straws and pipes at county clinics, two county commissioners told WW it should be delayed.

“As it relates to distributing foil and straw to enable fentanyl use, there is no compelling evidence that it is comparable to safe needle exchanges or that the county currently has capacity to connect individuals to treatment who want it,” Commissioner Julia Brim-Edwards told WW this morning.

The county gave two rationales for the new program. First, the smoking supplies encourage people to stop injecting, a vector for disease, health department spokeswoman Sarah Dean says. And they encourage people who are already smoking to come into clinics, where the county can offer fentanyl test strips, Narcan, a fast acting overdose reversal drug, and other services. Visits to the county’s harm reduction clinics have dropped substantially in recent years as fentanyl, which unlike heroin is more commonly smoked than injected, gains popularity on the street.

Prior to the county chair’s statement, Dean told WW that the county would pay $82,835 for the smoking supplies “using cost savings from underspent syringe budget.” The county plans to spend a total of $3 million over the next fiscal year on harm reduction supplies.

“The county has considered this for several years, but in reviewing results of our 2022 harm reduction client survey it became increasingly clear that this was a needed change in our area,” Dean says. “The proposed change was reviewed and supported by a number of public health experts within clinical and administrative health department leadership before being presented to the board.”

Even as she hit the pause button on the program, Vega Pederson defended the county’s efforts to address rising overdoses on Portland’s streets.

“My focus has been on saving lives,” she said in a statement. “We’ve seen overdose deaths from fentanyl increase eightfold since 2019, from 26 deaths to 209 deaths in 2022. I’m interested in connecting people with lifesaving materials like naloxone because we’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of people utilizing our harm reduction resources as fentanyl use became more prevalent. We must connect people to services and continue communicating to those struggling with addiction that your life is worth saving.”>>


<<Fallout from the Multnomah County Health Department’s now-suspended plan to distribute fentanyl “smoking supplies” through its harm reduction program continued on Tuesday, bringing in a letter from a Portland attorney urging the city to break off its 7-year homelessness partnership with Multnomah County.

John DiLorenzo, Jr., of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, represented a group of 10 people with disabilities who sued the city of Portland last September, alleging that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to clear homeless camps from public sidewalks.

Portland and the plaintiffs reached a settlement in May, with the city pledging to be more responsive in clearing camps that block public rights of way, as well as agreeing to quotas for clearing at least 500 campsites obstructing sidewalks each year, among other promises.

But according to a letter to city leaders that DiLorenzo publicly released Tuesday, Portland should now back out of its partnership with Multnomah County on the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

DiLorenzo hearkened back to a discovery last fall that the county had distributed $2 million in supplies to homeless people, including thousands of tents and tarps.

“When we discovered how the County had through its nonprofit partners blocked the sidewalks (only to have the City have to expend millions of dollars to remove them), we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” the attorney wrote.

The last straw, DiLorenzo indicated, was the county health department’s recent harm reduction plan.

“Up until Monday, the County staff were up to it again, preparing to distribute tin foil, straws and other drug paraphernalia to fentanyl addicts to further enable their habits,” he continued. “This ill-conceived plan would not only have had disastrous policy implications for our homeless population, it would have presented clear and present dangers to those who must wheel through the piles of fentanyl-laced debris which would surely be abandoned on our streets in large quantities.”

Here, DiLorenzo made the claim that fentanyl is “so toxic, even small exposures can have significant adverse health impacts on those whose hands come in contact with these toxic materials.”

Claims like these have come up repeatedly since fentanyl started becoming more common as a street drug, but health experts tend to push back against that characterization. While certainly an incredibly powerful synthetic opioid, second-hand fentanyl exposure — either through smoke or skin contact — is considered relatively low-risk since the drug is primarily absorbed through mucus membranes.

Regardless, DiLorenzo cited the aborted harm reduction program as another reason why the city should exercise its right to dissolve JOHS by providing a 60-day notice, or by simply ceasing its payments into the office.

“It is such a departure from City policy, and is such a threat to the safety of the community, that we believe it warrants the City suspending all further quarterly payments, dissolving the JOHS, and proceeding against Multnomah County to enforce its indemnity obligation to recover the City’s costs of defense of the Tozer litigation, (including any attorney fees awarded to the plaintiffs by the Federal Court),” DiLorenzo said in summation. “You have given the County staff more than enough time to get on the same page. It is apparent that they will continue to pursue their disastrous course unless you take a bold step. Dissolving the Joint Office should be that step.”

It’s worth noting that, though they both exist under the Multnomah County umbrella, the Joint Office of Homeless Services and the health department are separate entities — JOHS does not run the county’s harm reduction program.

In response to a request for comment, Multnomah County released a statement attributed to JOHS Director Dan Field:

“The extension of the Joint Office is a done deal – both the City and the County recently agreed to move forward with a 12-month extension.

The Joint Office’s relationship with the City is on the upswing, and we are working every day to increase our coordination and alignment to solve homelessness in our region.

“In just the past few months, we’ve doubled down on our close cooperation around new temporary alternative shelter sites, additional safe rest villages, an expanded Clean Start program to increase trash removal, and our work with the State to house individuals now sleeping at the foot of the Steel Bridge.

“Mr. DiLorenzo is raising this issue in an attempt to recoup attorney’s fees for his recent ADA lawsuit – he wants Multnomah County taxpayers to foot the bill. We’re focused on leaning in to move the work forward and encourage others to do the same.”

While Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Rene Gonzalez were both vocal in their opposition to the Multnomah County Health Department’s harm reduction moves, the city of Portland did not immediately respond to a request for comment on DiLorenzo’s letter.

Several Portland commissioners signaled earlier this year that they’d soured on the contract under which Portland and Multnomah County operate JOHS, complaining that the city does not have enough influence over how the office is operated. While the office gets funding from the city to the tune of $40 million per year, it’s essentially run as a division of the county. Portland’s funding accounts for about 15% of the estimated $265.5 million JOHS budget over the coming year.

The reason for the lopsided arrangement at JOHS, County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson recently told KGW, is that Multnomah County has historically shouldered social services for the greater Portland area, while the city handles economic development and utilities.>>


<<On Wednesday, the Blanchet House in Old Town handed out 91 suitcases to homeless Portlanders to help them move each day once enforcement of the daytime ban begins.

Officials for the Blanchet House said the suitcases will allow people to quickly pack up belongings if they are forced to move due to the new camping ban ordinance. >>

<<Blanchet House officials said the suitcases should help homeless residents comply with the new camping ban ordinance, which prohibits camping on city property from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Camping is also now banned at all times in parks and on sidewalks. Campers must be 250 feet from schools, childcare centers and high-crash corridors.>>


<<Following the aftermath of Multnomah County’s suspended proposal to pass out fentanyl smoking supplies, a lawyer has called on the City of Portland to dissolve the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

“The city ought to just yank their funding,” said Attorney John DiLorenzo of Davis Wright Tremaine.

This is not the first time DiLorenzo has made this demand. He previously revealed that the county had spent millions of dollars passing out tents and tarps, only for the city to spend nearly the same amount to pick them up and throw them away.

Recently, he led a lawsuit against the City of Portland to keep tents off sidewalks – claiming that blocking the pathways violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Portlanders with disabilities eventually reached a deal with the city.

Now he says the county’s recent work to pass out fentanyl smoking supplies goes against that agreement.

DiLorenzo said he’s concerned for his client’s safety again – claiming that the city’s proposal would mean contaminated foil and straws could end up littering the city’s sidewalks.>>

<<He claims that the proposal is counter to the entire philosophy behind the recent ADA settlement, prompting him to write a letter to Portland City Council. In it, he underlines the conflict between the city and county’s approach to spending money to address its addiction and homeless crisis.>>


<<Portland has received the first legal challenge to its daytime camping ban, which goes into effect today.

On July 1, a law firm representing a group of 24 people experiencing homelessness sent a tort claim notice to Portland City Council, accusing the new council-approved ordinance of violating both state and federal law. The notice from the Oregon Law Center acts as the first step in a lawsuit against the city – an action the group says it’ll take in the coming months.

Ed Johnson, director of litigation at Oregon Law Center, said the city’s policy takes the wrong approach at addressing one of the city’s biggest challenges.

“The thing that everyone agrees on is that we want fewer people to be forced outside and we want to end homelessness,” Johnson said in an interview. “The question is how to do it. And the worst way to do it is through criminalization.”

The city’s ordinance prohibits camping on all public property between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. – and imposes new limitations on where people can camp during all other hours. The policy also bans people from participating in certain activities – like using a gas heater or selling bikes – while camping at night. If people violate this policy twice, they will be given a written warning from a Portland police officer. If they violate the camping policy three times, they’ll face a $100 ticket or face up to 30 days in jail.

Mayor Ted Wheeler introduced the camping ban in late May. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office acknowledged that Wheeler had received the letter from the Oregon Law Center, but declined to comment on the notice.

While the city policy goes into effect today, Wheeler said it will not be immediately enforced. On Thursday, Wheeler said his office will spend the summer educating people experiencing homelessness on the new policy.

His office hasn’t made public when it will actually begin enforcing the rule.

City attorneys have said this policy update was required to get Portland in line with a recent Oregon law, House Bill 3115. That law mandated that cities make “objectively reasonable” rules about when, where, and how people can sit and lie outdoors on public property. By allowing people to rest on public property during 12 hours of the day, city attorneys said that the new rule should meet that “objectively reasonable” requirement.

Oregon Law Center lawyers disagree.

“The Ordinance unreasonably forces people to pack up all their personal belongings and effectively disappear from the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day,” reads the letter.

It argues that it’s unreasonable for the city to not offer any information on where people can legally camp during the day. When the policy was approved by City Council in early June, city staff suggested that daytime campers could move into a shelter, but most daytime shelters in Portland are constantly at capacity. Mayor Ted Wheeler said people could also move into the city’s planned mass outdoor encampments, but the first isn’t set to open until late July.

The letter goes on to claim that the ordinance “unreasonably exposes individuals to criminal prosecution… for violating a law that is incomprehensible.” This could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lawyers argue.

That argument is the backbone of a 2018 federal ruling that has shaped policies that regulate homelessness across the West Coast. That decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Martin v. Boise prohibits cities from arresting people for sleeping on public property — unless there is enough shelter available to accommodate a city’s homeless population. The federal appeals court determined these types of policies violate the Eighth Amendment. Yet, similar to Oregon’s law, the federal ruling allows governments to impose “reasonable” rules about where and when people camp on public property if there aren’t enough shelter beds available.

This is Portland’s reality. According to Multnomah County data, the county currently has 2,000 shelter beds open to the public, and around 90% of those are occupied on average. As of January, nearly 4,000 people were estimated to be sleeping unsheltered in the county on a given night.

The state law, HB 3115, was created to enshrine the Martin v. Boise ruling in state statute.

That law, which went into effect July 1, allows people experiencing homelessness to sue if they believe a city’s policy is not “objectively reasonable.” But that person must notify a city at least 90 days before filing a lawsuit.

The Oregon Law Center sent its notice to the city on July 1, meaning it would be able to file a lawsuit as soon as September 29.

The Oregon Law Center, a nonprofit that offers free legal aid to low-income Oregonians, has a long history of representing people whose lack of housing has left them vulnerable to criminal penalties. Johnson is the lead attorney in a case accusing the city of Grant Pass of creating unconstitutional laws against sleeping outside. A federal appeals court agreed with Johnson in 2020. And on Wednesday, that same court refused to rehear the case, allowing the prior ruling to stand.

Grants Pass said it hopes to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Grants Pass case was filed before state lawmakers passed HB 3115, meaning it solely focuses on how the city’s policy may violate federal law. A case against Portland’s ordinance, however, could be the first time a city policy criminalizing public camping is tested against the new state law.

For Johnson, the legal challenge is a chance to evaluate the impact that Portland’s policy will have on ending the city’s homeless crisis.

“Whether we’re rounding people up and putting them in these mass camps or just ticketing them and putting them in jail, none of that even has a reasonable goal of reducing homelessness,” Johnson said. “In fact, it will increase homelessness because people are going to be destabilized.”>>



<<Baker City Mayor Matt Diaz resigned Thursday, but he isn’t attributing it to the controversy he embroiled himself in over the past several weeks.

Diaz announced his resignation toward the end of a nearly three-hour city council meeting. Reading from a prepared statement, Diaz said he was moving out of town and would no longer be able to serve as mayor. He set his resignation date for Sunday.>>

<<Left unsaid was any mention of the anti-LGBTQ meme he posted on Facebook in June that positioned four Pride flags to form a swastika, which spread on social media and spurred calls for his resignation.

Diaz defended the meme in the days that followed but he declined to talk about it at the Thursday meeting as supporters and opponents continued to use public comment time to argue about the mayor and his meme. Diaz later told the Baker City Herald that he started planning his move before he made the Facebook post.

Before Diaz’s announcement, Councilor Beverly Calder made a motion to force Diaz’s resignation from the City Council, but it failed to pass after deadlocking on a 3-3 vote.

Diaz’s upcoming resignation ends a short but eventful stint in Baker City politics. A food truck owner and pastor, he was first elected to the City Council in 2022 promising in his campaign materials to bring “a Biblical and Constitutional world view” to city government. The Council elects the mayor in Baker City rather the voters, and after Calder was stripped of the title over critical comments she made about the city manager, the Council elevated Diaz into the role not long into his first term.

Although Diaz did not comment directly on the controversy, one of this final votes involved a diversity, equity and inclusion statement the city drafted that included support for “employees’ differences” in “gender identity and expression” and “sexual orientation.” He was the only City Council member to vote against the resolution.>>


<<Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer resigned Monday, three days after OPB revealed he has been posting offensive content in a private Facebook group for current and former law enforcement officers.

Sawyer notified City Manager Spencer Nebel and City Council President Jan Kaplan of his resignation in an email just before 9 a.m. “I am sorry – in its simplest and sincerest form,” the email opens.>>

<<“I now realize that some of my actions and my words have hurt people I love and care about,” he wrote. “This is something that I take full responsibility for.”

Since at least 2016, Sawyer has shared memes and posts denigrating women, immigrants, non-English speakers and the LGBTQ+ community in 39,000-member Facebook group.

Many of Sawyer’s most recent posts specifically targeted the transgender community.>>



<<This spring, a four-alarm fire inside downtown Portland’s May Apartments sent smoke billowing across the city and cost more than 100 people their homes.

Rumors about the fire’s cause began before the flames went out. Tavin Davis, 14, stood outside the yellow caution tape watching firefighters work that day and repeated what he’d been told, “I heard some guy got evicted and he set his apartment on fire.”

Inside the tape, fire investigators had already heard the same thing.

Lt. Jason Andersen of the Portland Fire Bureau’s arson investigations unit says rumors can be helpful. But they’re the start of an investigation and certainly not the end.

“We knew very quickly that this was going to be a complex investigation,” Andersen said.

Andersen’s team set out for the May from their downtown offices before they even got a call to report to the fire scene. They’d heard the radio chatter and knew everyone — a list that in this case included insurance companies, the city and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, not to mention residents like Davis — needed to know how the fire started as soon as possible.

Once they arrived, Andersen said, investigators, “threw out the anchor,” meaning they slowed their actions and avoided getting wrapped up in the chaotic scene. That allowed them to calmly set up their equipment and start collecting as much data as possible.

“That consists of interviewing witnesses, examining the scene, documenting the scene, taking photographs, reviewing those photographs, doing research on the property,” Andersen said.

The aim was to establish a baseline. For example, which doors were open, how many hoses were trained on the building, which windows were broken and when — anything that would affect their ability to understand the fire’s spread and eventually find its cause.

They also took pictures, including of the crowd that included Tavin Davis. In Andersen’s experience, most arsonists don’t hang around to watch their crimes play out. Still, investigators never know which details might lead to an ultimate answer. After the fire at the May Apartments was out, firefighters used a drone to gauge the safety of entering the building to investigate.

May 17, 2023 Technology has made fighting fires and investigating them easier over the years. The day of the May fire, a group of firefighters happened to be training on drones. They were able to bring the devices to the May and fly them above the building. That helped show crews holes in the roof and therefore the best spots to train hoses.

“This was the first time we’ve actually deployed a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) during active fire suppression operations,” Andersen said.

Once the fire was under control, investigators headed inside “Our biggest physical evidence we have in most cases is walls, ceilings, floors, furniture, all of that tells a story,” Andersen said. “We look for fire effects and fire patterns that help us to determine where that fire started.”

For example, imagine investigators spot a black trail of soot leading from a wall plug might indicate an electrical problem. Portland doesn’t have the money for an electrical engineer, so in a case such as that, they might turn to insurance companies.

“A private fire investigator may go in and may be able to hire an electrical engineer to evaluate that outlet and say, ‘This was not the outlet,’” said Andersen.

Insurance companies did pay to put up security fencing around the May Apartments, and for a structural engineer to gauge whether it was safe to go inside.

Investigators like to get into a building before firefighters tear into walls and crawl spaces to mop up hot spots. That work can destroy evidence.

But even if a fire has completely gutted an area, Andersen said, lots of evidence remains. For proof, he pulls up a picture on his computer. It looks like a small pile of charred trash to the untrained eye. In the next picture, the pile has been turned upside down – revealing the unmistakable bottom of a bright red gas canister.

“Most people think that physical evidence is destroyed. No, it is not destroyed. It is still present,” Andersen said. “It’s up to us to find it.”

Even liquid gasoline can survive a blaze.

“It can seep underneath the carpet down in the crack of the subfloor underneath the end table leg,” he said.

It’s not the liquid gas that ignites, but rather the vapors because they’re surrounded by oxygen.

From under Andersen’s desk, Kiki the bureau’s ignitable liquids detection dog, groans as if to agree. She can detect 40 different kinds of accelerants and she costs $25,000 to train, courtesy of an insurance company.

She’s needed because electronic detectors have trouble differentiating between accelerants and other burnt smells.

Andersen says witness interviews are also important in fire investigations. He wants to know what witnesses saw and the location of potential combustibles, like paint cans and cooking oils.

He recently investigated a fire in which it looked like an accelerant had been spread all over a kitchen. But the resident explained that a pan of cooking oil had caught fire. He picked it up to take it outside and accidentally splashed burning oil everywhere.

Andersen says some witness stories, like that one, add up. Others do not.

“I know what a gallon of paint thinner on the floor would look like,” he said. “If there’s a big enough pattern, it’s not a gallon of paint thinner, it’s five gallons of paint thinner.”

Also, people don’t tend to keep paint thinner in a kitchen or a living room.

Over the years, Andersen said investigators have relied less and less on firefighter experience and more on science. For example, old firefighters used to tell new recruits that black soot on a window indicated accelerant. Now they know this can mean several things, just one of which is the use of an accelerant.

The National Fire Protection Association first came out with its guide for fire and explosion investigations, the NFPA-921 guide, in the 1990s.

“And when it first came out, it was a very thin book,” Andersen said, but it almost doubles in size with every new edition.

Investigators make one of four findings when looking at a fire: A naturally caused fire, like lightning. An incendiary fire, which is a fire set intentionally where a fire should not be. An accidental fire, which is when someone, for example, forgets a pot of oil on a stove. And finally an undetermined fire. That means the investigator can’t be sure how the fire started.

Between 2018 and 2022, Portland Fire Bureau’s rate of “undetermined” fires shot up to around 60%, largely because of budget cuts and an increase in homelessness.

As a result, Fire Marshal Kari Schimel recently decided the agency should focus on fires with the biggest financial impact. In other words, building fires and not fires started outdoors or in tents by the homeless population.>>



<<The Portland Police Bureau’s Strategic Services Division is recommending the bureau address traffic stops that don’t result in a citation or arrest, noting they “can undermine the sense of procedural justice.”

The recommendation comes out of the division’s latest annual report analyzing traffic stop demographics, which it found largely reflected demographics of crime victims and traffic injuries. (With one exception: Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians were overrepresented in stops by traffic cops.)

Still, it notes, Black drivers were “significantly more likely” to be stopped for non-moving violations, such as a missing license plate, than white drivers. And the division noted that many of these stops resulted in no enforcement action, such as an arrest or citation.

Traffic stops aren’t an efficient way to stop crime, and can lead to cases of mistaken identity or the pursuit of false leads, it says. “The Bureau should consider providing guidance to reduce the number of stops that end without an enforcement action,” the report says.

In 2021, Chief Chuck Lovell directed Portland cops to reduce enforcement of “non-moving” violations, an effort codified by the Oregon Legislature in a law limiting the practice last year.

In happier news, 2022 was the first year that the bureau found no significant racial differences in the drivers it asked to search.

“Historically, Bureau personnel have disparately searched Black/African American drivers; however, this is the second straight year that the search rate for this group has moved closer to the overall search rate of White drivers,” it notes.>>



<<On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Oregon’s ban on recording people in public without their consent.

The court concluded the law was unconstitutional: a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.>>

<<Oregon was previously one of five states with such a ban. It included several exceptions, including allowing recording of some felonies and law enforcement.

The court’s ruling stems from a lawsuit originally filed by Project Veritas, a conservative organization that’s known for publishing surreptitious recordings in an effort to discredit mainstream media outlets and progressive groups. It complained that the law was hindering its operations in Oregon.

Project Veritas sued Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt in 2020, claiming the law would prevent it from investigating government corruption and violent protests. After a federal judge ruled against the group, it appealed the case to the 9th Circuit.>>



<<A 20-year veteran prosecutor accused Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt and his office of gender discrimination and retaliation in a draft legal complaint dated in March and now obtained by WW. Officials paid her $125,000 to settle the allegations.

That prosecutor, Nicole Harris, recently left the office. In March, she demanded over half a million dollars in a letter submitted to the county. In recent weeks, she was paid $125,000 to settle the accusations—half from the county and half from the state, which employs Schmidt.>>

<<The county commissioned a law firm to look into Harris’ complaints last year that ultimately determined they were unfounded. A spokeswoman for Schmidt’s office, Liz Merah, said settling was the most financially responsible option.>>

<<Harris is only the latest prosecutor to threaten the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office with a gender discrimination lawsuit. Former prosecutor Amber Kinney filed a tort claim notice with the office last July, saying she was repeatedly passed over for promotion and retaliated against when she spoke out about the office’s failure to promote women.

Results of an internal survey obtained by WW in March showed that woman were less happy with their jobs at the office than their male counterparts, with one commenter noting that the office has “a culture that favors white men.”>>

<<Last year, the county commissioned the law firm Barran Liebman to look into Kinney’s and Harris’ allegations. In a report obtained by WW, the law firm concluded that Harris had been passed over because she “had not demonstrated a strong work performance in the long term,” lacked “requisite temperament to work with newer [deputy DAs].” Some people interviewed noted that Harris had “a reputation in the office for making aggressive charging decisions.”

It notes that, as of February, “Schmidt has promoted six female DDAs and six male DDAs to Level 4 [supervisory] positions.”>>



<<High school students from around the state are in Portland this week to learn the ins and outs of a career with the FBI.

Forty-one students, chosen from an application pool of more than 140 candidates, are getting hands-on training at the Portland FBI offices in skills like processing a crime scene, interviewing subjects, testifying in court, and more.

They are also receiving lectures from professionals in various sectors of the FBI, including mediators and SWAT members.>>



<< More than two months after the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office launched special task forces to address retail and car thefts, District Attorney Mike Schmidt touted its success thus far but said more work needs to be done at a press conference Tuesday.

Flanked by the two deputy district attorneys in charge of the two task forces, Schmidt said the number of car thefts in the county dropped by 5% between January and May of this year. However he said putting this statistic into context with the dramatic increase in car thefts since the pandemic isn’t good enough.

Deputy District Attorney Cody Linderholm, who is in charge of the car theft task force, echoed the data that shows more than 80% of cars reported stolen, are returned within 30 days. He said because of staffing increases and better training of how to fill out police reports for these crimes, prosecutions is up to 80%. Linderholm’s goal is to get that number to about 90%.

“If we can start with getting stolen vehicles off the street, I think we will see a sharp decline in a lot of other crimes, like hopefully shootings and then hopefully homicides,” Linderholm said.

When it comes to retail thefts, Schmidt said that is still a big issue.

So far this year, there have been more than 10,000 reported thefts.

Deputy District Attorney, Theresa Turner heads that task force. She said she’s working with retail stores and their lost prevention officers to train them on what evidence they need to help prosecutors refer charges.

“Our goal is for us to have people feel comfortable shopping in our local stores,” Turner said.

She said prosecutions of retail thefts are also up. To truly address the underlying issues of retail theft, Turner said the community needs to tackle the multitude of crises’ impacting the metro area.

“Some of the things going on in the community, some of the houselessness, some of the addiction, I think those kinds of things being addressed, mental health, all of those things that are leading people to steal,” Turner said.>>



<<A Multnomah County official managing emergency medical service has told the Teamsters he’s recommending the county begin fining its ambulance contractor for slow response times. This afternoon, WW obtained a copy of that email.

For more than a year, the county’s ambulance contractor, American Medical Response, has been failing to meet on-time performance standards set in its contract. Often, ambulances simply aren’t available when people call for help. Despite this, the county has declined to fine AMR, leading Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson to order a review of the decision following WW reporting on the extent of the crisis.

The county has reviewed its options and is leaning toward “issuing new liquidated damages for excessive response times,” according to the email sent by Aaron Monnig, the health officer operations manager for county EMS, to Austin DePaolo, business representative for Teamsters Local 223, which represents AMR’s paramedics and emergency medical technicians.

In the email, Monnig recommends the county penalize AMR to “enforce the financial incentive” to meet performance standards, Monnig explains. The county previously rejected this idea when it considered it last October, to avoid “financially crippling the vendor.”

He also recommends the county stick with its current two-paramedic-per-ambulance policy, which is unique among regional counties but is necessary, Monnig argues, because Multnomah County is “fundamentally different” in that a city fire bureau paramedic does not also respond to every call.

AMR says this policy is contributing to the crisis because it can’t find enough paramedics to staff all of its ambulances. But the contractor took on new work with neighboring Washington County this year, irking Multnomah County officials.

AMR has also been unable or unwilling to hire more EMTs, who have less training and can perform fewer medical procedures than paramedics. It needs them to staff a new county pilot that sends “basic life support” ambulances to low-acuity calls. Monnig recommends the county require “AMR to deploy the BLS resource that they have failed to do so far.”

In the long term, Monnig recommends the county fund a “a systemwide planning effort” to explore alternatives when AMR’s contract expires in 2028.

Other options weighed by Monnig but ultimately rejected include finding AMR in breach of its contract, allowing the city fire bureau to provide medical transport services, and contracting with an additional ambulance provider alongside AMR.

“What is clear is there is no single option that resolves the issue and also does not have negative operational, fiscal, and clinical impacts to other EMS entities including the county,” Monnig writes.

One of those negative impacts will be to “financially destabilize” AMR, which is expected to pass on any fines in the form of “increased rates which will ultimately be passed on to the community,” Monnig explains.

The recommendations reflect “roughly what we are thinking,” Monnig writes, but are not finalized. They are expected to eventually be presented to Multnomah County commissioners.>>


<<American Medical Response, the company that dispatches ambulances in Multnomah County, has been making headlines for a month because of slow service. Patients are waiting longer than the industry-standard eight minutes, and county commissioners are sparring over what’s to be done with its repeatedly tardy contractor.

What’s less well known is that, along with the sick and injured, AMR’s ambulances are carrying around something much worse: a $5.4 billion pile of debt that appears to be on life support.

AMR is owned by Global Medical Response, a Texas-based company that is in turn owned by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., a New York investment firm that buys up whole companies using borrowed money.

Founded in 1976, KKR is the O.G. buyout—or private equity—firm. The business is called private equity because the corporate raiders who run it don’t tap public markets for money. They raise it from foundations and pension funds. KKR became famous in 1988 when it bought RJR Nabisco, maker of Oreo cookies, for $25 billion. That deal inspired a book that defined 1980s greed, Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.

Thirty years and hundreds of deals later, KKR bought AMR for $2.4 billion in 2018 and combined it with another company, Air Medical Group Holdings, to form Global Medical Response. All that dealmaking left the newly formed GMR with billions in debt in an industry that’s plagued by a shortage of paramedics, soaring costs, and stagnant revenues. Paying back those billions in such a tough environment could make it hard for AMR to spend what it must to improve.

And it gets worse. In a small-world twist, Oregon’s public employees had a hand in foisting all that debt on AMR.

The Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund is an investor, alongside KKR, in Global Medical Response. Seeking higher returns for its retirees than it can get in plain old stocks and bonds, the fund invests heavily in private equity. As of April 30, it had $25 billion in KKR and similar funds, or 27% of its total $93 billion, according to public records, making private equity Oregon’s biggest investment by category.

In fact, the retirement fund put up some of the money that KKR used to buy AMR, aiming to profit as KKR turned AMR into a better company.

Buyout firms usually aim to improve performance by cutting costs (and jobs) or by combining similar companies to create economies of scale.

KKR tried that by combining AMR with Air Medical Group to form GMR.

Instead of getting stronger, GMR appears to need an ambulance. GMR’s debt trades among large investors, and judging from the price, there are plenty who think GMR won’t be able to pay when $4.3 billion becomes due in 2025. GMR bonds trade at about 55 cents on the dollar, according to Bloomberg, a service that tracks such prices. In April, S&P Global Ratings cut its rating on GMR’s loans and bonds to CCC+.

In Wall Street parlance, they are junk.

“The downgrade reflects our view that GMR’s capital structure is unsustainable over the medium to long term,” S&P wrote in its downgrade.

“We believe GMR highly depends on a multitude of favorable conditions—including moderating labor and fuel costs, weather, and improving capital markets—to meet its financial commitments over the next 12-24 months.”>>



<<Last week, Post Acute Medical LLC, which operates 41 post-hospitalization rehabilitation facilities in 22 states, pulled the plug on its nearly five-year effort to open a new, 50-bed rehab center in Tigard.

Post Acute Medical, along with another rehab provider, Encompass Health, had hoped to fill what it saw as a gaping need: Oregon ranks second to last in the nation in rehab beds, which serve patients who have suffered strokes, heart attacks, brain injuries and other traumatic incidents.

In order to open in Oregon, the newcomers had to obtain a “certificate of need” from the Oregon Health Authority, effectively a finding that there was demand for the new services.

Over the objections of Legacy Health, the state’s biggest existing rehab provider, and the Oregon Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes that also provide rehabilitation services, the state granted both applications. Legacy and the OHCA appealed, and the matter is currently awaiting action in the Oregon Court of Appeals. But on PAM, at least, the opponents won.

“The dogged self-interest of PAM’s opponents (who sought delay at every turn and plainly have no concern about the patients who would benefit from PAM’s services) shows no signs of abating, and the Oregon appellate courts promise to give those opponents years of further delay at the very best,” wrote Arden Olson, attorney for Post Acute Medical.>>



<<A federal judge has signed off on new rules for the Oregon State Hospital with the hope that people in local jails who need to access the psychiatric facility for treatment spend less time waiting.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman noted in his Monday order that the state hospital remains out of compliance with a decades-old court injunction requiring the state hospital to admit people within seven days if they’re found unable to assist in their own defense due to a mental illness.

The order modifies more sweeping changes made last September by preventing people charged with the lowest level crimes from going to the state hospital at all. It also allows district attorneys to request defendants charged with the most serious crimes stay at the hospital longer. Mosman’s amended order also provides the state hospital more flexibility when discharging certain patients so they have the necessary support.

Mosman’s decision comes after months of litigation and settlement discussions between state health officials, local prosecutors, disability advocates and judges.>>

<<In September, Mosman agreed to significant changes and reduced the amount of time people known as “aid and assist” patients could stay at the psychiatric hospital. It allows people charged with misdemeanors to stay at the hospital for up to 90 days, six months for non-violent felonies, or one year for violent charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences under Ballot Measure 11.

Former U.S. Attorney Billy Williams is representing the district attorneys from Washington, Marion and Clackamas counties who got involved in the case after that initial order was signed. He said Monday’s order offered “important improvements” and that he was grateful their perspectives were ultimately included.

“There’s so much interaction between the mental health system and the public safety system,” Williams said. “Issues that involve mental health crisis, homelessness and substance abuse disorder — those three elements are driving so much of what is going on.”>>