PORTLAND, OREGON – An angry crowd gathered in a park in Oregon’s largest city Friday after police fatally shot a man while responding to reports of a person with a gun, Portland’s deputy police chief said.
Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told reporters that a white man in his 30s was shot and killed by police, who opened fire with a gun and weapons that fire nonlethal projectiles.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene in Lents Park, which is in a leafy, residential neighborhood of the city.
Two officers fired a 40mm device that shoots nonlethal projectiles, and one officer – an eight-year veteran – fired a gun, police said in a statement. The officer is on paid administrative leave, and his or her name will be released Saturday, authorities said.
Davis did not know if the man who died had pointed a weapon at the officers and did not say how many shots were fired. A witness who spoke to reporters at the scene said the man, who had removed his shirt and was blocking an intersection, appeared to be in a mental health crisis, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The police investigation into the shooting was being hampered by a “decent-sized crowd of fairly aggressive people” who showed up at the park within two hours of the shooting. Some in the crowd of dozens of people tore down police tape put in place to keep people away amid the investigation, Davis said.
Portland has been the site of frequent protests, many involving violent clashes between officers and demonstrators, ever since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Over the summer, there were demonstrations for more than 100 straight days. Earlier this week, a crowd set a fire outside the city’s police union headquarters following recent fatal police shootings in Chicago and Minneapolis.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has decried what he described as a segment of violent agitators who detract from the message of police accountability and should be subject to more severe punishment.
Videos on social media Friday showed protesters skirmishing with police, who used mace to keep them away from the crime scene. Detectives huddled over a covered body still at the scene as dozens of protesters chanted, banged drums and waved signs condemning the police from about 100 yards (91 meters) away.
“We’ve had to summon just about every police officer in Multnomah County to keep this group far enough away … to preserve what we refer to in our business as the integrity of the scene, so that nobody who shouldn’t be in there goes in there,” Davis said, adding that deputies with county sheriff’s office were also helping.
Wheeler visited the shooting scene and issued a statement urging Portland residents to “proceed with empathy and peace” while the investigation unfolds.
Several vigils and demonstrations were already planned for Friday night to protest the police shooting deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and Daunte Wright, a Black man in Minneapolis.
“These shootings always are traumatic for everyone involved and for our community, regardless of the circumstances,” Wheeler said. “I want to offer my sympathy to the individual involved and to their family. My thoughts also are with the officers who were involved.”
Todd Littlefield, who lives near where the shooting happened, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he went to the park after he heard gunfire.
“I was just getting in my truck, and I heard a loud shot,” he said.
Littlefield drove to the park and saw several officers standing behind trees and their cars, ordering a man to show his hands, he said.
Juan Chavez, an attendant at a nearby gas station, said he saw a man standing in the middle of the intersection, blocking traffic, with his shirt off. He appeared to be unstable and disoriented, Chavez told the newspaper.
Police then showed up, and the man entered the park before Chavez said he heard two gunshots.
The area where the shooting happened is within the boundaries of operation for a new city pilot project called Portland Street Response in which a team without police officers responds to reports of homelessness or people in mental health crisis.
The pilot project team was not called out Friday and would not respond to a call involving reports of a person with a gun, Davis said.