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What Happened to James Chasse: Witnesses claim Portland police mistreated man who died in custody

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Witnesses claim Portland police mistreated man who died in custody

from Associated Press +

The death of a man in Portland police custody Sunday is drawing complaints from witnesses.

Several people claim police abused the combative suspect -- 42-year-old James Phillip Chasse -- at Northwest 13th and Everett hours before he died.

Witnesses said they watched officers chase down and tackle the suspect for several minutes. Reverend Randall Stuart said he saw three officers tackle the 42-year-old and stun him as many as four times with a taser.

Police said they had no other choice. Officers said Chasse tried to bite them and was urinating in the street.

Portland's office of independent police review has received three separate witness complaints about the police action. It has opened a case and will monitor the police bureau's internal review of the matter.

Meanwhile, toxicology reports will reveal any possible narcotics in Chasse's system and that will help the medical examiner determine his cause of death.

After police used a taser on Chasse, he later showed difficulty breathing and died in custody, according to Det. Paul Dolbey.

Officers called for medical help, saying Chasse was having breathing problems. He was checked out and taken to Multnomah County Detention Center where, according to Dolbey, he showed more difficulty breathing. Chasse was taken to a local hospital in a police car but lost consciousness on the way, police said. Officers and medics tried to resuscitate him, but Chasse died at the hospital.

The officers involved in Chasse’s custody were identified as Sgt. Kyle Nice, 39, a 14-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau, officer Christopher Humphreys, 31, a seven-year veteran of the bureau and Dep. Brett Burton, 26, a two-year veteran with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives asked that anyone who had contact with Chasse to call (503) 823-0451 or (503) 823-0459.

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