Saturday, September 20, 2008

What’s the cost of deadly force?

From the Portland Tribune, September 19 2008

Washington County has no plans to build up its casualty fund even with two wrongful death lawsuits filed in federal court

How much will three deaths at the hands of sheriff’s deputies cost Washington County? And can the county afford it?

Ultimately, it could be up to a jury to decide.

Today, Washington County has two deputy-involved wrongful death suits filed against it in federal court – for the shooting deaths of Lukus Glenn in September 2006 and Jordan Case in October 2006.

And the family of Shane Grundmeyer, a man shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies on Feb. 16 of this year, submitted a tort claim letter in April notifying the county of their intentions to sue.

So far the Glenn lawsuit is the only one that has attached a monetary value to its claims – two claims for relief, each for $7 million.

The last wrongful death suit filed against a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy was in 2001. A federal jury threw out the $10 million lawsuit filed by the family of Rodney Ray Layman, who was shot and killed by a deputy during a traffic stop.

But how would Washington County handle a wrongful death suit if it had to pay?

Up until last year, the county had operated as a completely self-funded insurer for liability claims. It maintains what is called a casualty fund. Instead of paying premiums for insurance to an outside company, the county pays into its own fund which is used to pay on general liability claims.

The county currently has about $2,268,179 in its casualty fund.

That number seems insufficient when compared to the $14 million relief claims being sought by the Glenns. But County Risk Manager Sara Stevenson said the county has no plans to increase the fund even with some possible multi-million lawsuits on the horizon.

Stevenson said she is confident in the actuarial studies done every two years that inform the county how much to put in a casualty fund in order to keep pace with complaints and claims.

“It assumes the future will follow the past,” Stevenson said.

And in the past, the county’s done well at keeping its claims and payments down.

In 2006-2007, the county’s casualty fund paid out just under $194,000 for liability claims. Last fiscal year it paid out $46,000, but Stevenson expects that number to go up as the county settles some claims. During fiscal year 2007/2008, the county had 135 tort claims filed against it. Four of those resulted in lawsuits.

Last October, the county began purchasing excess liability insurance after an appellate court ruled that tort claim caps even for public entities were unconstitutional. In the case of a large suit, the county would only be liable for the first $1 million. Stevenson likened it to how a deductible works for car insurance.

Unfortunately, the new insurance doesn’t apply to incidents that happened before Oct. 1, 2007, and wouldn’t pay in the cases of Glenn and Case. If the county were slapped with a multi-million dollar court decision, it could look at a structured settlement, Stevenson said.

As with any claim, Stevenson said her office investigates the claims for any negligence on the part of the county. While all three shootings were cleared of criminal wrong doing by the district attorney’s office, Stevenson said her office does another investigation for civil lawsuits.

And if her office finds any negligence on the part of the county, it tries to settle.

In each of the three deputy-involved cases, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office called the shootings “justified.”

And in each case, the men were under the influence when they encountered Washington County sheriff’s deputies. Lukus Glenn had a blood alcohol content level of .18 at the time of his death. Case had been ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms. And Grundmeyer, according to a toxicology report, had a substantial amount of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of the shooting.

The Case lawsuit – which names Washington County and the cities of Tualatin and Sherwood as well as the officers and deputy involved– has a tentative November 2009 jury trial date.

Agencies named in the Glenn shooting lawsuit, including the city of Tigard, Washington County and the officer and deputies involved, have not yet filed their answers to the lawsuit allegations.

Grundmeyer’s family has reportedly switched lawyers, and John McVea, who represented the family for the tort claim letter, said he’s unsure if they have retained new counsel yet or not.


Hit with: eight bullets

The call: On Sept. 16 2006, Washington County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call in Metzger involving a male subject armed with a knife.

The outcome: Deputies fired eight rounds into 18-year-old Glenn as he, according to police, tried to run back into his home.

The family’s claims: Among 12 failures listed by the Glenn family one says Washington County and Tigard failed to properly train law enforcement in management, detention and arrest of persons suffering from mental impairments.


Hit with: four bullets

The call: On Oct. 21, 2006, a Tualatin woman called 9-1-1 to report an intruder in her apartment.

The outcome: A deputy shot 20-year-old Case three times in the chest as he opened the door to a running patrol car. After another attempt to enter the vehicle, Case was shot in the head.

The family’s claim: Echoes the Glenn family claims that the county and cities of Sherwood and Tualatin didn’t provide adequate training for management, detention and arrest of people suffering mental impairments.


Hit with: two bullets

The call: On Feb. 16, 2008, two deputies devised a plan to intercept 39-year-old Grundmeyer in Aloha. He was wanted on a felony warrant.

The outcome: Deputies shot and killed Grundmeyer as he, according to the deputies, rammed two patrol vehicles with his BMW in an attempt to elude law enforcement.

The family’s claims: According to the tort claim letter, “force was used in the stop resulting in Grundmeyer’s death.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Parents of Tigard teen shot by police file lawsuit

The Mental Health Association of Portland has followed the what happened to Lukus Glenn since 2006 on our web site - What Happened to Lukus Glenn.

The family of an 18-year-old Tigard man shot to death by police during a domestic disturbance in 2006 filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday against the county, city and officers involved.

Hope Glenn, the mother of Lukus Glenn, filed the suit against Washington County, the two deputies who shot her son, the city of Tigard and a Tigard police officer.

There are two claims for relief in the lawsuit. Each seeks more than $7 million.

"We were forced to go ahead and file this to shed light on the events of that night," Hope Glenn said. "It's all been very hard and it just gets worse not better."

Spokesmen for the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Tigard Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A Washington County district attorney's office investigation into the shooting, completed in October 2006, called the incident "tragic" but "legally justified." The probe ultimately rejected Hope Glenn's call for a public review of the shooting.

The incident began about 3 a.m. Sept. 16, 2006, when Hope Glenn called 9-1-1 from her Tigard residence, saying her son was drunk, out of control and threatening the family. Three officers arrived minutes later to find Lukus Glenn outside his house holding a knife.

When Glenn refused to drop the weapon, Tigard police Officer Andrew Pastore shot him with nonlethal beanbags. As Glenn turned and moved back toward his house, where his family members were, Washington County sheriff's Deputies Mikhail Gerba and Tim Mateski opened fire with their service weapons, killing him.

An autopsy showed that two of the eight bullets that struck Glenn inflicted fatal injuries by severing large pelvic arteries. Nonfatal shots also struck Glenn in the legs, buttocks, lower back and right shoulder.

A medical examiner's report found that Glenn, a former high school soccer and football star, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 at the time of his death. Oregon's legal limit for driving is 0.08.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court by Lake Oswego attorney Lawrence K. Peterson, says official accounts of the Sept. 16, 2006, shooting contained "glaring inconsistencies and self-contradictions that were never resolved."

The official account of the shooting, for instance, said the beanbag rounds fired at Glenn had no effect and he continued to "act out" after they were shot. The lawsuit says, however, that an audio record of the events shows the lethal fire was discharged almost simultaneously to the beanbags.

The officers' failure to use appropriate crisis intervention techniques, to engage Glenn in conversation rather than relying on yelled commands and to use the beanbag shotgun in a manner that moved Glenn toward the doors of his residence, among other factors, all contributed to his death, according to the lawsuit.

RIP Lukus Glenn

EXTRA - From, August 13 2008
EXTRA - For all previous stories about what happened to Lukus Glenn from the Oregonian CLICK HERE.
EXTRA - Lukus Glenn family files wrongful death suit, Tigard Times August 13 2008
EXTRA - Myspace - group memorial for Lukus David Glenn

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Plan addresses police-shooting investigations

From The Oregonian

Deadly force - A law seeking inquiry fairness prompted Washington County's proposal

Washington County is the first jurisdiction in the metro area to develop a plan for investigating police shootings under a new law passed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature.

Though Multnomah and Clackamas counties aren't far behind, Washington County's plan will be the subject of a public hearing next week in Hillsboro.

The plan was written to satisfy Senate Bill 111, which was passed by the 2007 Legislature at the request of Attorney General Hardy Myers. The bill directs counties to develop plans in hopes of bringing uniformity and fairness to the processes set in motion by a police shooting.

"Really, we already do this in Washington County," said Sgt. David Thompson, Washington County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "Our deadly-force cases are turned over to the Major Crimes Unit, which includes police from all the cities. This way, investigations can be as transparent and impartial as possible."

Lane County was the first to adopt its plan and submit it to the attorney general's office, as required by law.

In recent years, critics have charged that investigations into police use of deadly force have been tainted.

In 2003, critics charged that officers were allowed to confer before they were questioned about the fatal shooting of Kendra James by Portland police. In that case, an officer partially entered a car James was driving, then tried to pull her from the driver's seat as she put the car in gear. Officers then shot James, testifying that they feared for their lives. They were legally cleared of wrongdoing.

In 2004, critics alleged racism when Portland police shot and killed James Jahar Perez after he resisted officers' attempts to remove him from a car for not having a driver's license. Police testified that they saw Perez pull a clenched fist from his pocket and thought he was drawing a gun. A public inquest cleared police of criminal wrongdoing, but a civil lawsuit against police is proceeding in federal court.

In 2006, the fatal shooting of Lukus Glenn, an 18-year-old former Tigard High football star, by Washington County deputies raised more questions. Although an investigation upheld the shooting, Glenn's family has unsuccessfully pressed for an inquest and has threatened to file a lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the attorney general's office launched a study of how deadly-force cases are handled, then wrote the bill that was filed in the 2007 Legislature. Testifying before the Oregon Senate, Myers said more uniformity in post-shooting investigations would help allay fears by the public and ensure fairness to the police and victims.

Washington County's proposed plan calls for:

Requiring training for police in the use of deadly force, including annual seminars.

Providing mental health counseling and support for police involved in shootings.

Requiring at least one police officer from a different agency to investigate the shooting.

Notifying the district attorney's office, which will have discretion over how to proceed.

Requiring investigators to debrief officers and then determine whether police followed the deadly-force policies or whether the policies themselves should be amended.

Meeting annually to evaluate whether the plan needs revisions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What Happened to Lukus Glenn

Lukus Glenn was shot and killed by Washington County Sheriff deputies Mikhail Gerba and Tim Mateski in 2006 at his home.

Over the next few months we will create a complete site of all articles and documents publicly available about what happened to Lukus Glenn.

When the site is finished, you will can learn what happened to Lukas Glenn at our web site - What Happened to Lukus Glenn.

This site is created and presented by the Mental Health Association of Portland.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Teen's death spurs Washington County Sheriff change

from The Oregonian, Dana Tims

Glenn: Sheriff doubts Tasers would have helped

The police shooting death last September of an angry, drunken teenager near Tigard is triggering changes in how the Washington County Sheriff's Office responds to crises involving distraught people.

Annual crisis intervention training, formerly voluntary, will be mandatory; Tasers, previously carried only by some deputies, will be issued to all uniformed deputies; and longer-range, nonlethal weapons are being tested, the sheriff's office said Thursday.

In a key finding of the department's exhaustive review of the death of 18-year-old Lukus Glenn, officials determined that the two county sheriff's deputies who fired the fatal shots acted appropriately and that none of the changes being enacted now would have made a difference.

"Mr. Glenn's intoxication and anger toward his family were proximate causes in this tragedy," said Pat Garrett, the department's chief deputy.

Attorneys representing Glenn's family welcomed the changes but challenged officials' version of the Sept. 16 shooting. "We've got some revisionist history at work here," Lake Oswego attorney Larry Peterson said.

For instance, Peterson said, the final review states the officers were farther away from Glenn than what they and witnesses said in the days after the shooting. Peterson has claimed that the officers were close enough to use Tasers. Tigard police Officer Andrew Pastore, called to the scene because he carried a nonlethal beanbag shotgun, was 27 feet from Glenn, according to the final review, but witnesses had placed him at 15 feet.

Peterson, acting on the family's behalf, has called for a public inquest and in the past month filed notice of intent to sue Washington County, the city of Tigard and the officers involved.

Among changes announced Thursday were that all patrol deputies will be equipped with Tasers, Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon said. In addition, the department will require crisis intervention training aimed at dealing with emotionally distraught people.

Deputies Mikhail Gerba and Tim Mateski, who responded to the Glenns' Tigard-area home, did not have Tasers. Yet even if they had the weapons, Gordon said, they probably would not have used them because they were standing outside the 21-foot range in which Tasers are considered most effective.

Washington County's new hires all undergo an initial four-hour training session, but annual 24-hour classes updating the training are voluntary. Gordon said that, in his opinion, more crisis intervention training would not have helped save Glenn's life.

"This is because deputies were dealing with a subject who was armed, violent, angry and uncommunicative and fueled by severe intoxication, versus a mentally ill subject," he said.

Toxicology tests found no evidence of illegal drugs in Glenn's system but did show a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent. That's more than twice the amount at which a person is considered under the influence when driving in Oregon.

Hope Glenn, Lukus Glenn's mother, had phoned 9-1-1 early that morning saying her son was out of control and threatening her and other family members. Deputies arrived four minutes later and confronted Glenn, who was walking back and forth outside the home's front door.

Audiotapes of the brief confrontation indicate that deputies repeatedly yelled at Glenn to drop a knife he was holding. He repeatedly yelled that they would have to kill him.

Pastore fired six beanbag rounds at Glenn. Five struck the teen.

Seconds later, when Glenn tried to run back into the house where his mother, father and grandmother were, Mateski and Gerba opened fire, killing Glenn almost instantly.

A Washington County district attorney's office investigation, released shortly after the shooting, determined the deputies and officer were "legally justified," finding no cause for taking the case to a grand jury.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Parents of teen killed in 9-1-1 call intend to file suit

The Oregonian, by My-Thuan Tran

The parents of Lukus Glenn have filed an intent to sue Washington County, Tigard and the deputies and officer involved in shooting the 18-year-old former Tigard High School soccer and football star, claiming the authorities mishandled the situation that resulted in the death of their only son.

The family's lawyer, Larry Peterson of Lake Oswego, said the deputies opened fire too soon, failed to use other forms of nonlethal force and were not trained in crisis management, according to a letter sent Thursday. The notice also said Glenn's parents were not treated fairly during questioning after the shooting.

About 3 a.m. Sept. 16, two sheriff's deputies and a Tigard officer went to the Glenn home just north of Tigard after Hope Glenn called 9-1-1 saying her son was drunk, holding a knife to his throat and threatening the family. When Glenn refused to drop his pocket knife, the officer first shot him with bean bags and the deputies then opened fire as Glenn moved toward the house, striking him with eight bullets.

A Washington County district attorney's office investigation determined the deputies and officer were "legally justified," finding no cause for bringing the case to a grand jury.

Peterson, however, said the police officers could have prevented Glenn's death. A 9-1-1 recording of the shooting shows there is no gap between the bean-bag shots and the bullets fired by the deputies, Peterson wrote in the notice. He added that the deputies gave conflicting information about how much time passed before firing the fatal rounds.

"Where is the time gap? If you listen to the 9-1-1 tape, the shots are all simultaneous," Peterson said. "There is a clear disconnect between the statements made, and no one has bothered to answer that question."

The notice also said that the officers should have used a Taser, which fires non-lethal electric shocks, to subdue Glenn instead of opening fire. The Tigard police officer was carrying a Taser, Peterson said.

The notice claims the officers were not appropriately trained in using deadly force and in dealing with crisis situations.

"They overreacted to a distraught teenager with violent use of force," Peterson said.

Peterson also said investigators questioned Glenn's parents multiple times after the shooting without an attorney present, while the deputies and police officers had two days before their interviews.

Glenn's family requested a public inquest into the shooting but was denied by the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

"We don't feel like we are being treated fairly," Hope Glenn said. "In everyone's mind, the shooting was done by the book, and we don't believe that. We lost our only child. They took his life, and our lives will never be the same again."

Tigard city officials and a county spokesperson said they have received notice of the suit but declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

The dollar amount the family is suing for will be revealed in the lawsuit in the coming months, Peterson said.

In the meantime, the Washington County Sheriff's Office is wrapping up its administrative review into the department's deadly force policies and training, said Sgt. Dave Thompson, spokesperson for the sheriff's office.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Homicides in county jump to 11 in 2006 from six last year

from The Oregonian, by Holly Danks

Washington County's homicides in 2006 nearly doubled from the previous year, due in part to a triple murder in Bethany and three police shootings.

Eleven people died at the hands of another in 2006, compared with six in 2005 and 10 in 2004. During the past six years, the county's annual homicide toll has averaged eight.

A change from past years is the absence of victims of domestic violence. "There was a time when half or more of the homicides were domestic violence," said District Attorney Robert W. Hermann, who has been a prosecutor for 31 years.

Homicides related to domestic violence "seem to have gone down over the years," Hermann said. He credited aggressive prosecution of domestic abuse cases and a restraining order program that confiscates guns.

But no program, Hermann said, could have saved Melody Dang and her sons, Steven and Jimmy. Investigators say the Dangs' killer was not someone in the family or even someone who knew them.

"Fortunately, it's something that we hardly ever see," Hermann said of the multiple murders. "Even the ones you read about tend to be family members."

The last triple murder in the county was in 1990, when Yoshio Morimoto of Beaverton killed his wife and two young children. Morimoto pleaded guilty during his 1992 trial and was sentenced to life in prison.

Charges were not filed in 2006's three police shootings, because the district attorney's office determined the shootings were justified.

Also, charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide were not filed in the deaths of the four bicyclists killed by cars in 2006. Prosecutors and the grand jury determined the deaths were accidental, not criminal.

However, the district attorney's office charged six drivers with manslaughter in fatal crashes that killed their passengers or people in other vehicles. A jury found one guilty and two others pleaded guilty; trials are pending early in 2007 for the three remaining drivers.

Two more potential vehicular manslaughter cases are under district attorney review.

Here are the 11 Washington County homicides from 2006:

* Juan Humberto Rincon Cruz, 25, was shot to death March 25 in the parking lot of the Center Plaza Apartments in Beaverton. Police think the shots, which killed Rincon Cruz and wounded a friend after they left an apartment, were fired by people in a sport utility vehicle. Unsolved.

* Theodore Faulkner, 27, of Hillsboro was shot in the head May 27 by his friend, Dustin Eugene Ceballos, 30, of Banks, while the two sat in a parked car in Forest Grove. Police said both men were drunk and playing with a loaded gun. Ceballos pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and was sentenced Nov. 20 to five years' probation.

* Dulce Hernandez Onofre, 19 months, of Hillsboro died Aug. 2 after doctors at a Portland hospital declared her brain dead and took her off life support. Ramon Rodriguez Moreno, 27, of Hillsboro was arrested Aug. 1 after taking the child, who was his girlfriend's daughter, to the emergency room with a fractured skull. He is in the Washington County Jail on $250,000 bail, awaiting his May 15 trial for felony murder.

* William Johnson, 4 months, died of head injuries at a Portland hospital Sept. 9, two days after paramedics were called to his Cedar Mill home, when the baby wasn't breathing. The baby's father, Shawn Thornton Johnson Jr., 29, is in the Washington County Jail without bail on a charge of felony murder, awaiting his Sept. 7 trial.

* Lukus Glenn, 18, died Sept. 16 after being shot eight times by two Washington County sheriff's deputies outside his Tigard-area home. Glenn's family called 9-1-1 after the drunken teen, armed with a pocket knife, broke windows and made threats. When Glenn refused to put down the knife and moved toward the house, deputies fatally shot him. The district attorney's office upheld the deputies' actions and declined to send the case to a grand jury. The Glenn family and friends have called for a public hearing into the shooting.

* Neil Bruce Marcy, 45, of Forest Grove was shot to death Oct. 8 by officers from the Forest Grove and Cornelius police departments after he confronted them with a gun in each hand outside the College Place Apartments. The district attorney's office concluded the shooting was a suicide, because Marcy wanted police to kill him.

* Jordan Laird Case, 20, died Oct. 21 after being shot in the head by a Washington County sheriff's deputy. A Tualatin woman called 9-1-1 after awakening to find Case in her apartment. She and her 8-year-old daughter had to fight him off before police arrived. When Case reached inside the deputy's patrol car and tried to grab a locked gun, he was fatally shot. The woman told police that Case had said he was high on psychedelic mushrooms. The district attorney's office ruled the shooting justified.

* Melody Dang, 37, and her sons, Steven, 15, and Jimmy, 12, died of gunshot wounds Nov. 2 in their Bethany-area home. A month later, investigators arrested Ricardo Serrano, 31, of Aloha. Court documents indicate Serrano's wife was having an affair with Melody Dang's longtime live-in boyfriend, who was at work the night of the murders and found the bodies when he came home. Investigators say Serrano wanted the boyfriend to suffer and planned also to kill him. Serrano is charged with 10 counts of aggravated murder, and his death penalty trial is set for Feb. 12, 2008.

* Fleeta Sheely, 62, of Hillsboro had terminal cancer and was shot to death by her husband, Richard Sheely, 64, who then shot and killed himself in their Jackson Creek home. A co-worker of Fleeta Sheely's found their bodies in their bed on Nov. 15. Police said the door was open, and their wills and obituaries were laid out.