'So frustrated, so angry, so hurt, so mad'; family of man killed by police speak out
Family members of the man shot and killed by Portland police Saturday say officers used poor judgment when they shot and killed John Elifritz.
Barbara Pierce, Elifritz's cousin, said officers "took the totally wrong approach" when they encountered Elifritz inside a Cityteam Ministries. She said family members are having a hard time with what happened.
"A kindhearted man with a heart of gold was murdered by cops and it's not OK," said Pierce. "He was a good man, he was a father, a grandfather. He is a brother, he is my cousin, he's somebody's son."
Pierce says her cousin worked on and off in shipyards and as a welder. She said he loved music. He loved people.
"He would give the shirt off his back for anyone, he gave money to the homeless, he helped out all his friends," Pierce said.
Witnesses say Elifritz ran into the shelter and began acting frantically. They say he stabbed himself in the neck and lunged at an officer. Officers fired beanbag rounds at him before shooting and killing him at about 8 p.m. At least one person captured the end on video and posted it online.
"He wasn't trying to harm anybody. It's clear in the video. He wasn't trying to harm anybody. If he was trying to harm himself, you don't kill him, you try to help him," said Pierce.
The cousin says police could have handled the situation differently. Now, Pierce wants the police bureau to fire the officers involved.
"He's gone because of all this poor judgment and something needs to be done," she said.
Cityteam Ministries was back open Monday after being closed all day Sunday while police investigated and the building was restored.
"It's been challenging for our staff here to go through a situation like this. Clearly traumatic for everyone who was part of the incident," said Mike Giering, executive director for the shelter.
Giering says there were about 30 to 40 people inside when Elifritz came into the shelter. He says the shooting happened shortly after their weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting started.
Monday there were patches on the walls inside the shelter. Giering says some of them are from Saturday night's incident, others have been there for a while. He said the entire floor was part of the incident.
Giering says they do not recognize Elifritz as someone who had come to the shelter before. He says they are providing their clients with counselors to speak to if needed.
"[We are] obviously saddened that an event like this took place in our facility. It's a place of hope, it's a place of restoration for men and women in the community. We are going to continue offering those services despite being exhausted from the last 48 hours or so. We're going to press on with a strong resolve to help people who need it," said Giering.