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What Happened to James Chasse: Grand jury hearing testimony on death in police custody

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Grand jury hearing testimony on death in police custody

from Associated Press +

A Multmonah County Grand Jury weighing the case of a man who died in police custody will not have a decision until next week.

On Tuesday, the family James Chasse Jr. released what their attorneys called the "remarkable" autopsy report of his death.

Jamie Marquez, courtesy the Portland Mercury

Medics and police check on a man who later died in police custody.

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer said she was informed by the district attorney's office that no decision is expected until next week because a witness was unavailable.

According to the state medical examiner, Chasse died an accidental death from blunt force trauma to the chest, officials said.

The autopsy documents show that Chasse had multiple broken ribs that caused massive internal injuries and a punctured lung.

Attorney’s for Chasse’s family said that the “report is remarkable for several reasons,” citing that Chasse was in relatively good health and had no alcohol or drugs in his system at the time.

Chasse died on the way to the hospital in a patrol car after being booked into jail by officers on September 17, according to police. Police took Chasse into custody in Northwest Portland after a struggle, officers also tased Chasse and he later began having breathing problems, police said.

Medics were called in and Chasse showed normal vital signs, then officers took him to the Multnomah County Detention Center according to officers.

According to the autopsy report, a nurse at the jail advised officers to take Chasse to the hospital. Police said he died on the way, according to the report.

Dr. Karen Gunson of the medical examiner’s office said that from a medical examiner's point of view, the officers involved did not know Chasse would die based on their actions.

When the jury returns with its finding, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office will make the announcement.

"Following the conclusion of the Grand Jury, the Police Bureau is committed to providing an extremely detailed account of the what led up to the initial contact with Mr. Chasse and the actions of all those involved throughout the entire incident. I ask that people be patient until we have the opportunity to provide this briefing and begin what I hope will be a broad-based discussion on not only the specifics of this incident, but also the issues that law enforcement and the community face in dealing with people who suffer from a mental illness," Sizer said in a statement Wednesday.

Portland Police are investigating the case and said earlier that they are rigorously examining their “actions, training policies and procedures,” according to a statement by Sizer.

Chasse's family also said they were continuing to investigate, and thanked the public for cooperation they've recieved regarding the case.

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