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Wheeler wants to wait for all the facts on deadly police shooting

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, during a taping of "Your Voice Your Vote" Thursday night, discusses the deadly police shooting of John Elifritz last Saturday at a Southeast Portland homeless shelter. (KATU Photo)

Mayor Ted Wheeler is asking for patience as two investigations are launched into last weekend’s police shooting.

John Elifritz, 48, was shot and killed by officers at a local homeless shelter.

Wheeler says he’s worried people don’t have all the facts at this point.

The mayor says he wants to wait for all the facts before he comes to any conclusions.

In a conversation Thursday night during a taping of KATU’s political show “Your Voice Your Vote,” Wheeler did address the challenges officers face when confronted with someone in a mental health crisis and what can be done about it.

The officers’ shooting of Elifritz last Saturday night at Cityteam Ministries on Southeast Grand Avenue was captured on video by a bystander with his cellphone. The video has become a flashpoint in the shooting, generating controversy.

“Let’s all just take a step back, hold our breaths and wait for the facts to come out before we come to judgment on this,” Wheeler said Thursday night.

Elifritz’s wife told KATU on Monday that she believed her husband was having a mental breakdown.

During the taping of “Your Voice Your Vote,” Wheeler expressed sympathy for Elifritz and his family, and while investigators can’t confirm Elifritz was having a mental health crisis, Wheeler said it’s still something officers consider anytime they’re in these situations.

“The fact that police officers are put in the position of being first responders for mental health issues should raise some red flags in people’s minds about the state of community-based mental health services,” he said.

Wheeler said officers receive training but going forward he said it will take a village.

“I believe Portland has a role to play in that, the county has a role to play in that, but we shouldn’t let the state or federal government off the hook either,” he said. “We need to completely relook at the way we serve people who live with mental health issues.”

Watch more of the mayor’s interview this Sunday, April 15, on “Your Voice Your Vote” at 9 a.m.

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