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What Happened to James Chasse: 2007-09-02

Friday, September 7, 2007

City Wants To Keep Chasse Probe Secret

from the Portland Mercury

It’s rumored that attorneys for the City of Portland are fighting in court to keep the Police Bureau’s internal affairs investigation into the death of James Chasse secret, saying they want to protect the privacy of the officers involved.

Tom Steenson, attorney for the Chasse family, said in a press release yesterday that a federal court hearing is scheduled for October 11, “to resolve disputes over the defendants’ production of documents in discovery.”

Sources close to the situation say the Police Bureau is refusing to release its internal affairs documents to Steenson, and that the hearing is scheduled to resolve questions of public disclosure. Nobody was in at the City, or at Steenson’s office, to return a call from Blogtown, but we’ll have more early next week.

Timing of the news is unfortunate—the anniversary of Chasse’s death is the Monday after next, and protests are already planned outside City Hall and the downtown Justice Center. Any efforts by the city to prevent complete transparency around Chasse’s death are bound to leave people asking what the city has to hide.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Remembering Chasse

from Portland Mercury

Protests Mark One-Year Anniversary

Activists are planning protests outside Portland's downtown Justice Center and at city hall on September 17 to mark the one-year anniversary of the controversial death in custody of James Chasse.

Chasse, a schizophrenic chased through the Pearl District by Portland police after urinating in the street, was tackled to the ground opposite the Bluehour restaurant on NW Everett. There, Chasse—who weighed 145 pounds and stood 5' 9"—was beaten and Tasered repeatedly in front of more than a dozen witnesses, then carted off to jail in a squad car, instead of to the hospital. He died just over an hour later, en route to the hospital after jail nurses told the cops he could not stay in a cell.

Members of the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Portland, which has focused its advocacy on Chasse's death for the past year, met last Saturday to plan a "peaceful statement" at 4 pm outside city hall, and draft a letter to the mayor listing their unanswered questions.

"Is it safe for families of people with mental illness to call the police in an emergency, whether it be a psychiatric emergency or any other sort?" asked Jason Renaud of the MHA. "The other question which I think has gone unanswered is: What the hell happened? Don't we have policies, procedures, and a justice system that can resolve this? Don't we have a way to remove police officers from the force who do things like this?"

Sergeant Kyle Nice and Officer Christopher Humphreys, who were cleared of criminal wrongdoing related to Chasse's death by a grand jury, are still working for the Portland Police Bureau, while Sheriff's Deputy Brett Burton, also cleared, is still employed by Multnomah County. Meanwhile Chasse's family continues to pursue a civil lawsuit against the city.

A more radical all-day protest is also planned for September 17 by a group posting anonymously on activist website Indymedia. The group plans to set up shop at 8 am on SW 2nd and Main, directly opposite the cops' Central Precinct building, and to stay there all day.

"We want the cops to see us as they enter work that day, as they head out for street patrols, as they head out to lunch," wrote the organizers, on the website. "We will not be ignored. We demand justice. We will not live in fear." Efforts by the Mercury to contact the organizers of this protest were unsuccessful by press time.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Questions Want Answers

Friends and supporters of James Chasse want to know what happened to James Chasse - and why.

Together we will meet on September 17 at 4 PM on the sidewalk outside of City Hall to deliver a letter to Mayor Tom Potter listing our questions and concerns.

It was September 17, 2006 when James was attacked and beaten by law officers Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphrey and Brett Burton. James died after first responders ignored his injuries.

Read this web site. Send your questions about what happened to James Chasse to info@mentalhealthportland.org. We will incorporate your question into our letter. Then help us deliver the letter to Mayor Potter on September 17.