Vigil attendees upset over deadly police shooting, ACLU raises questions

People hold signs near Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter during a vigil for a man police shot and killed Saturday night. (KATU Photo)

About two dozen people held a vigil outside the Southeast Portland homeless shelter Sunday evening where police shot and killed a man.

Among them were friends of the suspect. Police have not released the man’s name, but a family spokesman identified him as John “John-John” Elifritz.

Victoria Nevarez says she grew up with Elifritz in Portland. She and some other friends left a memorial for him outside Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter, where he was shot and killed.

"Us as the community love him. He was an upstanding individual with a family, daughter, grandchildren," said Nevarez. "John-John would give you the shirt off his back. He would've done anything in the world for anybody."

People at the vigil said they’re not satisfied with the police response. Some called the shooting a murder while others said it criminalized the houseless population.

And David Rogers, the executive director of ACLU Oregon, said in a statement that video captured of the shooting raised serious questions about the police response.

Police killed the man Saturday night after he ran into the shelter located at 526 S.E. Grand Avenue. While police have not confirmed it was the same person, it is suspected he was the man who was involved in a carjacking earlier in the day.

Witnesses said the man threatened himself and others with a knife inside the shelter.

Many of those who came for the vigil on Sunday held signs calling out what they said was police brutality. Many of them referenced the graphic video that showed the suspect being shot inside the shelter.

One man at the vigil said in his three years in Portland, police are especially aggressive.

"People should be able to go into churches where expectations of relative safety and healing, and they should not have to worry about having a cop follow them and murder them," said Antigonus Rose.

Some people at the vigil said they were close to the man. They said he doesn’t usually stay at the shelter, adding he was there at the wrong time. They said he had a big heart and didn’t deserve to die like this.

In his statement Rogers, of the ACLU, said he wants to know whether there was any attempt to de-escalate the situation before the officers shot the man, and if there wasn't, he wanted to know why there wasn't.

“We join many in the community by calling for a prompt, thorough, and transparent investigation into this shooting," he said. "The public deserves to get a detailed account of why this man was shot and what actions Portland Police took to avoid yet another fatal shooting."

He added that if it weren't for the video, there would be no record of the shooting. He called on law enforcement agencies to start using body cameras.

"Body-worn cameras could increase transparency, promote police accountability, and help ensure interactions with community members are fair and lawful,” Rogers said.

Shooting Captured on Video

Morgan Pickering posted the video of the shooting that has generated the controversy. On his post he wrote, "Police protected us, had to shoot the man."

The video, which contains graphic material, shows pandemonium inside the shelter. People can be seen moving out of the way as police enter the building with guns drawn. The suspect stays behind some kind of barrier as yells of "drop the knife" can be heard. Several single shots can also be heard during the incident. It was not clear what type of ammunition was being used, whether they were less-lethal rounds or real bullets.

Near the end of the video, a burst of gunfire can be heard. The suspect takes several more steps and then falls to the ground. Nearly a dozen police officers can be seen inside the building.

Watch an edited version of the video. WARNING contains graphic content:

Pickering told KATU that the man ran inside the shelter and started stabbing himself in the neck. He said the man was not threatening anyone else. He said the man was holding a pocket knife and while it wasn't apparent in the video, he said the man was ready to charge at the officers.

Pickering said police warned the man multiple times before they shot him.

Pickering said Saturday was his first time at the shelter and he didn't recognize the man.

Portland police said they are aware of the video. They said investigators are reviewing it. Police said they couldn't discuss the video since it is part of the investigation.

"The Portland Police Bureau values human life and accepts the authority to use lethal force with great reverence," said Chief Danielle Outlaw in a statement. “I am aware a video was taken of this incident by a community member and that video was posted to the internet. Please be reminded that deadly force investigations are extremely complex and take time. The Police Bureau is committed to transparency and will ensure the entire investigation is released in a timely manner that does not impact the integrity of the investigation."

Mayor Ted Wheeler also issued a statement about the shooting:

Last night officers responded to multiple calls for service regarding a suspect that ultimately ended in an officer involved shooting. The loss of a life is always tragic. My priority is to discover the facts and circumstances regarding this incident. Already, there are those who want to immediately define what happened. It would be highly irresponsible for me to participate in speculation at this time. I urge us all to allow investigators to do their work, to uncover the facts, and to report on their findings.

The officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure. Police said the officers will be interviewed within 48 hours.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off