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Grand Jury Clears Portland Police Officer Who Killed PSU Student In July

<p>An officer with the Portland Police Bureau attends the National Night Out in Maywood Park, Ore., on Saturday, July 27, 2019.</p>

Bryan M. Vance

An officer with the Portland Police Bureau attends the National Night Out in Maywood Park, Ore., on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

UPDATE (6:48 p.m.) — A grand jury has cleared a Portland police officer who shot and killed a 31-year-old Portland State University student this summer, determining that the officer acted lawfully to defend himself or the public.

Portland Police Officer Gary Doran will not face criminal charges for shooting and killing Lane Christopher Martin on July 30.

Doran fired 11 rounds. Three were recovered from Martin's body at the autopsy, as well as one from his shirt, according to the Portland Police Bureau, which released 555 pages of documents from their investigation into Martin’s death Monday afternoon. Two other officers fired 40 mm less lethal rounds.

Martin's family suspected he suffered from bipolar disorder and had been on a mental health hold at a psychiatric hospital just weeks before he died. 

In response to the absence of criminal charges, an attorney representing Martin’s family has announced they are filing a civil lawsuit over his death.

“Our family is heartbroken by Lane’s unnecessary death,” said Cristi Martin, Lane’s mother. “And our personal tragedy is further proof that the city has not changed the pattern of police conduct since it was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice. We don’t want another family to suffer like this. The DA won’t charge the officer and the city won’t discipline him. How will we stop this from happening again?”

The U.S. Department of Justice has previously found that encounters between Portland police officers and people with mental illness too often led to unnecessary uses of force, including deadly force. The Portland Police Bureau has been under a settlement agreement with the DOJ  since 2012. 

The DOJ also found that serious deficiencies in Oregon’s mental health care system mean police are frequently the first responders for people having a mental health crisis. 

The shooting of Lane Martin occurred at the Ash Street Courtyard Apartments in East Portland.

The Portland Police Bureau said officers were responding to a call of a disturbance with a weapon. A security officer had reported that Martin said he was a "Federal Officer" and was attempting to break into a car in the parking lot of an abandoned Safeway. 

Officers said Martin was armed and was acting erratically while not complying with their orders.

Before he was shot, Martin carried and waived around a small camping hatchet. One officer described Martin's actions as "threatening manner, and looking around at the Officers and civilians at the scene."

Martin eventually dropped the hatchet after officers used less lethal force, according to the police investigation. He then started to run from officers to an apartment complex on 120th and SE Stark.

Martin then "produced a black folding knife with keys attached," according to one detective's account. "Officers gave numerous commands for the subject to drop the knife and he refused, the subject started to advance on the officers."

Officer Shanley Bianca told detectives she heard officers giving Martin commands, which Martin replied, "No."

"Officer Bianca said she observed the subject raise his arms up so his elbows were bent, and hands in front of his chest, similar to a boxing stance," the police investigation states. "Officer Bianca told me she could see a knife in his right hand. She stated just after he raised them he took one or two steps toward the group of officers and then heard a volley of shots."

After Doran fired his 9 mm Glock, Martin fell to the ground. Police then performed first aid while they waited for medics. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Martin had graduated from Portland Community College earlier this year. He worked for PSU in the facilities department and was studying art at the university.

In the month before his death, Martin had showed signs of paranoia and psychosis and had become afraid of other people. His family and friends had tried to get him treatment for suspected bipolar disorder. In early July, Martin spent 72 hours on a mental health hold at the Unity Center for Behavioral Health.  

Cristi Martin spoke with reporters after a memorial for her son at PSU last week.

“I want people to know that he was the most wonderful person, but he had this other struggle, and people shouldn’t have to struggle so hard to find help in our system,” said Martin. “There was no reason for this to have happened to him.”

More than half of the people who have been shot by Portland police or have died in custody had a mental illness or were in a mental health crisis, according to the most recent review by the OIR group, independent consultants who study officer-involved shootings for the police bureau.

“The city wants us to believe that it has addressed police violence against the mentally ill with its training and data reporting,” said Jesse Merrithew, an attorney representing the Martin estate. “The data shows those efforts to be ineffective. The central failing remains a lack of accountability and enforcement of the city’s written policies, and that’s what led to Lane’s tragic death.”

Full transcripts of the grand jury proceedings are expected to be released later this month. 


Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton, Conrad Wilson