PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – A grand jury in Oregon has found that two campus security officers at Portland State University were acting in self-defense when they fatally shot a black man outside a bar.
Multnomah County prosecutors said Thursday that the grand jury found PSU officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie should not face criminal charges.
Jason Washington, a 45-year-old Navy veteran, was killed in the June 29 incident in downtown Portland.
A witness who captured on video the moments leading up to the shooting says Washington was trying to break up a fight when a gun fell out of his pocket.
He was shot seconds later after someone shouted, “Gun!”
Washington had a valid license to carry a concealed weapon.
The shooting renewed protests over the university’s 2015 decision to arm its police.
In response to today’s decision, Washington’s wife and attorney made statements:
Statement of Michelle Washington (widow of Jason Washington):
“Although my family and I are disappointed the PSU officers will not face criminal charges, we appreciate the hard work of those serving on the grand jury. I will be looking to my attorney, Christopher Larsen, to guide us through the next steps in this process. We want those responsible for the death of my husband to be held accountable. We will always remember and love Jason and know he was needlessly killed while attempting to keep the peace.”
Statement of Christopher Larsen, Portland attorney
“I respect the decision of the grand jury. I, along with our team of lawyers and experts, will now have an opportunity to review all the evidence that has been obtained and developed by law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office. We intend to vigorously pursue legal action against those who are responsible for this tragic death.”
Here is the response from Portland State University’s President:
Dear campus community,
Today’s no-indictment decision by the Multnomah County Grand Jury closes the Portland Police Bureau’s investigation of the June 29 fatal officer-involved shooting on our campus. However, Mr. Jason Washington’s death continues to weigh heavily on my mind, as does the safety of our students, staff and faculty.
Mr. Washington’s death has deeply shaken all those involved as well as the greater campus community, and we are determined to learn from it.
With completion of the Portland Police Bureau investigation, we are now moving forward with separate reviews of the shooting and campus security by independent experts. The security review will result in recommendations to enhance safety policies and procedures, including the issues around an armed campus police force.
The review process will be transparent. A 15-member oversight committee of students, faculty, staff and members of the greater Portland community has advised me in choosing the outside consulting firm that PSU is engaging for this work.
One independent review will conduct a thorough examination of the shooting, including all the information from the Portland Police Bureau investigation that was presented to the grand jury.
A separate broader review will serve as a road map for updating and modifying campus safety policies and procedures, such as Campus Public Safety Office staffing and resources, officer training, and our relationship with local law enforcement, considering what may have changed over time since PSU’s trustees approved a sworn, armed police force in December 2014.
I have selected the nationally recognized consulting firm Margolis Healy to do this work. I made the selection after we posted a public Request for Qualifications seeking consultants with experience and expertise in campus safety. The oversight committee reviewed six firms and unanimously recommended Margolis Healy. The committee will work with Margolis Healy and provide a review of the safety report once it is completed. The report and recommendations will be public once it is submitted to our Board of Trustees.
The committee also recommended that PSU engage a separate firm to examine the shooting incident, and I have chosen the OIR Group based on the committee recommendation and my conversation with this firm. OIR is a national expert in independent police oversight and review.
Both of these firms are highly qualified with years of experience in this area. We are confident that their independence and expertise will lead to recommendations that will help guide our decisions on campus safety and security.
In the past weeks, I have read all the letters, messages, emails and comments from faculty, students, staff and community members. Thank you. All those will be forwarded to Margolis Healy. At its next meeting Oct. 4, the PSU Board of Trustees will discuss our response, and there will be an opportunity to comment at that meeting. In addition, Margolis Healy will hold a series of campus and public forums this fall as part of its review, and details will be announced soon.
Our goal is to move as rapidly as possible without compromising opportunities for fact finding, campus input and evidence-based outcomes. I believe these two rigorous independent reviews are the best way to achieve this.
In closing, I know that today’s decision will rekindle the pain and sadness from the loss of Mr. Washington, and our thoughts are with his family and friends. Recent weeks also have been difficult for all of our CPSO officers. The Office of the Dean of Student Life and Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) and Human Resources offer support and resources for students, faculty and staff.
My hope is that our actions following this tragedy will help make our campus and community a safer place for years to come.