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What Happened to James Chasse: Chasse Lawyer: Police are Lying to the Public

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chasse Lawyer: Police are Lying to the Public

from the Portland Mercury

Portland Police Bureau has lied to the public over the death in custody of James Chasse, according to the Chasse family’s lawyer, Tom Steenson, pictured above on the left next to Chasse’s father, said at a press conference this afternoon: “We would hope Chief Sizer and the police bureau would stop dispensing false information to the public so they can make their own decision about what happened.”

Steenson’s main concern is over the police claim, made yesterday, that Chasse died as a result of being accidentally fallen on by officer Christopher Humphreys, as he was shoved to the ground. This appears to contradict Humphreys’ own statement to the Police investigation, released this afternoon to the media by Steenson, in which he says twice that he fell onto the sidewalk.
I just went boom, down right on the ground. Um, and I, I actually I remember was just goin’ down I thought boy this is gonna hurt, um on the pavement. And I, I land on the pavement and I kinda rolled and as I rolled I went up on my left side and I wear my uh, I keep a small flashlight in the left rear pocket and it actually jammed against my hip.

Asked to clarify where he fell, Humphreys said, “Yeah, I fell on the sidewalk. I went right, right over and past him.”

Asked why the police would release a factsheet that directly contradicts the testimony of one of their own officers, Steenson said “they’re trying to control the damage, protect their own officers and spin it.” Asked what the family thinks of the mayor’s and Chief Sizer’s apologies over Chasse’s death, Steenson said: “An apology is a far cry from justice for Jim Chasse.” However, the family is yet to decide whether to pursue a civil case.

While the police say Chasse was only struck three times—once inadvertently, and kicked and punched one time each, Steenson says the cops "left out of the fact sheet that six to ten witnesses saw repeated kicks and blows."

Also, Steenson's independent expert witness, Dr. William Brady (who was Oregon Medical Examiner from 1969 to 1985), disputes the police explanation of the cause of Chasse's injuries—that the blunt force trauma was caused by "another person or a fall." Brady says Chasse's injuries could well have been caused by kicking or striking—indeed, had they been caused only by his fall, there would have been some sternum damage, and there was none.

Portland Police Bureau's Public Information Officer, Sergeant Brian Schmautz, responds to Mr. Steenson as follows: "Humphreys doesn't recall falling on him. In all criminal investigations, you take the totality of all witness statements and lay them against all physical evidence. It's true, Humphreys doesn't think he did it, but it's not about us trying to cover up the truth—20 to 30 individual witnesses see things and their conclusions are based on biases, stress and pre-dispositions. You and I may see the same thing and draw different conclusions about what we saw."

"Humphreys independently believes he fell past [Chasse], but there's no physical evidence or independent testimony that corroborates that. I appreciate Mr. Steenson's position, but it's our posititon to be as open as possible and present the facts as we have them. For liars—you'll see it. We have no intention of saying anything we believe is innacurate."

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