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James Chasse at 17

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Marquez Photo of James after beating

a documentary film by Brian Lindstrom
Premiere – Portland International Film Festival - February 15, 2013
Contact: Jason Renaud / Producer / 503-367-6128

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse is a feature-length documentary film that chronicles one man’s struggle with schizophrenia and examines the actions of the police officers responsible.

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse is a feature-length documentary film that chronicles one man’s struggle with schizophrenia and examines the actions of the police officers responsible for his death, exposing a city grappling with accountability in the death of an innocent, unarmed man.

Playing at Cinema21 in Portland Feb 24 - March 7. Purchase Tickets »

le for his death, exposing a city
grappling with accountability in the death of an innocent, unarmed man.
On Sept. 17, 2006 James Chasse was stopped by three law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon in broad daylight.  A dozen eyewitnesses watched in horror as the officers tackled, beat, kicked, and tasered James until he lay motionless on the pavement with 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He died
in the custody of Portland police about two hours later.
Alien Boy Links

The James Chasse Story: Beaten to Death on the Streets of Portland
by Tim Flanagan

James Chasse died on September 17th 2006 -- three long years ago. Two Portland officers and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy chased him after one of them thought he might have been urinating in the street. Officers knocked him to the ground and the coroner's report found he suffered dozens of broken bones and abrasions.

Chasse's broken ribs were most likely the result of kicks or a dropped knee.

State medical examiner Karen Gunson, who performed Chasse's autopsy, told attorneys for the Chasse family during depositions that some fractured ribs in Chasse's back were unlikely to have been caused by his fall to the ground, but that a "knee in that particular area on the back of the neck" was a "better scenario." Gunson found 48 separate abrasions or contusions on Chasse's body, including 16 possible blows to the head. Chasse would most likely have lived if he had been given proper medical care, Gunson said.

Mr. James Chasse was unarmed and posed no threat to police or the public.

He was a gentle soul who suffered from mental illness. He died as a result of his inability to breathe caused in part by blunt force trauma to the chest during struggles with the Portland police.  Witness accounts indicate that the police officers involved kicked Mr. Chasse in the head and chest. They are known to have Tasered Mr. Chasse repeatedly before laying Mr. Chasse on his chest while he was "hog-tied" despite his difficulty with breathing. Then they decided to take Mr. Chasse to jail rather than the hospital.  Bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg, a witness, said: "I did hear Mr. Chasse yelling 'mercy, mercy, mercy,' and that was personally pretty disturbing to me."

According to Dan Handelman, of Portland Copwatch, these facts indicate “that even if the officers did not intend to kill Mr. Chasse, they should have known that their actions could cause his death. It seems reasonable that a jury could indict the officers for criminally negligent homicide.”

But little has happened to Multnomah County Sheriff deputy Bret Burton, Portland Police officer Christopher Humphreys, and Portland Police Sergeant Kyle Nice.  Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk failed to secure indictments against the officers. The officers involved are all back on duty after extended paid leave. The Chasse family, represented by Tom Steenson, still seeks justice.  Opinions vary on whether or not the police followed bureau policy. 

The September 2009 Review Force Board concluded that the “initiation and termination of the foot pursuit of Mr. Chasse did not violate any Bureau policy and that the force used during the struggle to stop, control and handcuff Mr. Chasse was within policy.”

An expert witness says Officers Nice, Humphreys, and Sheriff's Deputy Burton did not follow police policies and practices in the treatment of someone who is at least suspected of being mentally ill. Lou Reiter, former Deputy Police Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, described the officers' use of force as "unreasonable," and their failure to disclose to paramedics the force used on Chasse as "unreasonable."

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer, has recommended that one of the officers involved in the arrest of James Chasse be suspended.  The recommendation came when Sizer released the findings of the police Use of Force Review Board, but not the actual report.  

Michael Hopcroft, a board member of the Mental Health Association of Portland, criticized the chief’s findings.  “The facts of the case as found by more independent objective individuals showed that Chasse’s injuries could only come about by excessive force,” Hopcroft said. “Why the chief’s protecting the officers involved, I really have no idea.”   The case has been a call to action for mental health advocates, who are troubled by the way some sick people have been dealt with by police. Both Multnomah County  and the City of Portland may pay for  the Chasse killing.

Multnomah County, which had one deputy on the scene, has settled out of court  with the family for about $900,000.  The family's civil case is scheduled to begin next March 16th in federal court.  Sizer’s recommendation that an officer be suspended is now going through an internal review process.  This case stands as one of many where citizens have died or been gravely injured while in police custody. 

“The late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King said we are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation,” said the Reverend Doctor Leroy Haynes, vice president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance.  “James P Chasse, Junior, who died in police custody of blunt force trauma, cries out today from the grave for justice, justice for the weak, the voiceless, and the victims.” he continued. “We stand today giving voice to the cry for justice for James P Chasse, and others who were victims of excessive force by the Portland Police Bureau.”

The Mental Health Association of Portland asks that those who are concerned with civil society, healthcare, justice issues, and treatment of the mentally ill, not let this case simply fade away. They ask for voluntary resignations of Portland police officers Kyle Nice, Christopher Humphreys and Bret Burton.

"People have only as much liberty
as they have the intelligence to want
and the courage to take.”

Emma Goldman

    Update:  The officers involved were not punished for this crime.  Chief Potter essentially blamed the victim. (the mentally ill) The officers who kicked, punched, and beat James to death
(in front of 12 witnesses) were neither disciplined nor prosecuted. There was zero accountability for this crime.  And the killings continue. tmf

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The two officers who had been disciplined in
the brutal beating
death of James Chasse, Jr. were ordered to have their records expunged and back payments made for the 80 hours each was suspended.

As long as we continue to have little police accountability in Portland,
avoidable killings of innocent people will continue.

For all we can know

The Universe begins and ends

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