Grand jury indicts Portland officer on assault charge for “legally excessive” use of force. Huh?

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PORTLAND, OR- A grand jury has indicted a Portland police officer on an assault charge that prosecutors allege was an “excessive and unlawful use of force” during a protest over summer 2020.

According to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, on Tuesday, June 15th, Portland Police Officer Corey Budworth was indicted on one count of fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor, stemming from the August 2020 incident.

At the time of the incident, Budworth was on the bureau’s Rapid Response Team, responsible for crowd control, and is accused of striking a woman in the head with a baton during the August 18, 2020 protest outside the Multnomah Building. 

According to reports, the indictment marks the first time a Portland police officer is facing prosecution for striking or firing at someone during a protest.

Court records show that the indictment accuses Budworth of “unlawfully, knowingly, and recklessly causing physical injury” to the woman, identified as Teri Jacobs. Jacobs alleges that Budworth “bashed her in the face” with his baton after he had already knocked her to the ground.

The police union is pushing back, characterizing the prosecution as politically driven and said that Budworth’s baton strike to the woman’s head was accidental and not criminal. The Portland Police Association said in a statement:

“We stand by our officer, truth, and justice.”

A steam of various videos from the night of the protest, that turned into an unlawful assembly, shows Budworth, who at the time was only identifiable by the No. 37 written on his helmet, hitting the back of the protester’s head with his baton. 

According to the video, the officer knocked the woman on the ground and struck her in the head with the baton again while she was on the ground. However, the Police Bureau found that the strike to the head was not intentional and therefore not considered lethal force.

Additionally, the Independent Police Review office reviewed the video and viewed the strike as a “push,” which was noted in compliance officer Dennis Rosenbaum’s report. Rosenbaum also stated that the video did not support either stance.

In Budworth’s case, prosecutors allege that he had no legal justification for his use of force. Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt added in a statement:

“The deployment of force was legally excessive under the circumstances.”

Reportedly, after the incident, Jacobs filed a civil rights and battery suit against the city of Portland, “Officer 37,” and other unnamed officers in the U.S. District Court in Portland. According to court records, the city and Jacobs reached a settlement of the civil suit in spring 2021.

The city has agreed to pay her $50,000, plus $11,000 in attorney fees. On Monday, June 14th, Budworth testified before the grand jury. Jacobs and a police detective also testified earlier in the month.

Budworth has spent four of his six years on the force with the Police Bureau as a member of the specially trained Rapid Response Team, which does crowd control. In a statement, the Portland Police Association said:

“Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and politicized criminal justice system.”

On August 18th, 2020, police declared a riot outside the Multnomah Building after someone had launched a Molotov cocktail at the building, starting a fire. Budworth and other Rapid Response Team officers were told to clear the crowd away from the building and the fire.

According to the union, once moved, some in the crowd continued to march back to the building and again, the police crowd control team was told to disperse the crowd, which is when a “confrontation ensued.”

The union stated that Budworth used his baton to move Jacobs out of the area and that after Jacobs fell to the ground he made “one last baton push to try and keep her on the ground, which accidentally struck Ms. Jacobs in the head.” The union added:

“He faced a violent and chaotic, rapidly evolving situation, and he used the lowest level of baton force, a push; not a strike or a jab, to remove Ms. Jacobs from the area.”

On Tuesday afternoon, June 14th, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves a police commissioner, said in a statement:

“I take this matter very seriously. As Mayor, I hold Portland Police Bureau members to a very high standard of professional conduct. Our city experienced over 170 days of protests following the murder of George Floyd and I also want to acknowledge that our officers faced great risk and protected our city in extreme conditions.”

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Welcome to San Fran: Charges dropped against man who attacked officer rookie with glass bottle

April 22nd, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A technical issue resulted in all charges being dropped against Jamaica Hampton, a man shot by San Francisco police after he attacked an officer with a glass bottle. One officer in the case is still facing charges.

Hampton, 25, had been facing assault, battery, and resisting arrest charges over the 2019 incident in the Mission District since last December. In December, a grand jury brought an indictment against both Hampton and Officer Christopher Flores. Flores was one of two officers who shot at Hampton.

On Friday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Eric Fleming dismissed the charges against Hampton after the defense argued that the District Attorney’s Office failed to present evidence of Hampton’s identity as the person who attacked the officers while presenting the case to the grand jury.

Basic criminal procedures in California requires that the defendant be identified as the person who committed the alleged crime.

Prosecutors responded to the motion to dismiss by stating that the defense never disputed Hampton’s involvement, and that prosecutors had submitted video evidence against Hampton.  

Rachel Marshall, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said:

“We presented evidence of identification, including video evidence, but the judge ruled it was insufficient.”

The grand jury issued the indictments in connection with an incident that occurred on December 7, 2019. Officer Flores was a rookie officer on field training when he and Officer Sterling Hayes encountered Hampton.

Hampton, a suspect in a burglary in the Mission District, appeared to be intoxicated near the intersection of 23rd and Capp Streets. Police say Hampton assaulted Officer Hayes through the passenger-side door of a police vehicle the two officers were in.

 

A scuffle broke out between the officers and Hampton.  In the incident caught on Officer Hayes’ body camera, Hampton struck Flores with a 200 ml glass vodka bottle.

Officer Hayes drew his firearm and fired six rounds at Hampton, knocking him to the ground.  When Hampton began to rise to a kneeling position, Officer Flores shot him a second time.

Hampton survived the shooting with critical injuries. He had to have a leg amputated because of the injuries sustained in the shooting.

Attorney Nicole Pifari, representing Officer Flores, said the officer shot Hampton in self-defense. She said she was surprised by the dismissal of Hampton’s charges, and blamed District Attorney Chesa Boudin:

“I was surprised at this failure of Boudin’s office during the grand jury proceedings, but at the end of the day, it has no bearing on the strength of Chris’ case.

“Anyone who has seen that video knows it was Hampton who needlessly attacked this young officer, and it was Hampton who instigated all of the violence that happened that day.”

Pifari had previously issued the attack on the officers by Hampton as brutal, and that Officer Flores was defending himself and his partner from death or serious bodily injury for a “brutal, unprovoked, and incredibly violent attack.”

Danielle Harris, the attorney assigned to represent Hampton, declined to comment.

Officer Flores still faces charges of assault and negligent discharge of a firearm.

The District Attorney’s Officer said they plan to refile charges against Hampton.

The case has drawn criticism from law enforcement groups as tensions rise around the country over police shootings. Boudin was elected just days before the shooting. He had campaigned on platforms of police reforms and ending mass incarceration.

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San Francisco police chief ‘surprised and troubled’ by officer’s felony indictment in shooting incident

December 13, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO, CA San Francisco Police Department officer Christopher Flores has been indicted for a use of force situation that occurred last December.  The police chief has called the indictment “troubling.”

In the incident, Flores fired his weapon at Jamaica Hampton while on-duty and responding to a burglary report in the city’s Mission District. Hampton, allegedly armed with a glass bottle, was critically injured but survived the shooting.

San Francisco police officer indicted over what appears to be a normal use of force scenario
Screenshot courtesy of ABC7 San Francisco

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott gave a professional, but concerned overview of the case against Officer Flores in a Facebook post:

“Statement of San Francisco Chief of Police William Scott on the grand jury indictment of S.F. Police Officer Christopher Flores.

“Today, I was informed of a felony indictment by a grand jury against Officer Christopher Flores regarding his involvement in an officer-involved shooting that occurred on December 7, 2019. Given the facts as we know them, I am surprised and quite frankly disappointed by this felony indictment against one of our officers.”

The chief went on to describe the incident. He said officers responded to an incident where an offender reportedly broke into a home with the occupants inside. The 911 call came from a young mother with her infant child inside the home. The chief continued:

“A short time later, our officers encountered an individual matching the suspect’s description. Audio and video evidence shows that the suspect initiated a violent, unprovoked attack on the officers — repeatedly striking Officer Flores in the head with a thick glass bottle, which resulted in serious injuries.

“Video evidence also shows that the subject — Mr. Jamaica Hampton — pursued Officer Flores as Flores was retreating. Both officers subsequently discharged their firearms, causing life-threatening injuries to Mr. Hampton.”

Chief Scott said he believes the officers followed department policy during the incident and the resulting shooting:

“The San Francisco Police Department’s Use of Force policy states that ‘an immediate threat is considered to exist if a suspect has demonstrated actions that would lead one to reasonably believe that the suspect will continue to pose a threat if not apprehended without delay.

“A person is an immediate threat if the officer reasonably believes the person has the present intent, means, opportunity, and ability to complete the threat regardless of whether the threatened action has been initiated.”

The chief pointed out that the San Francisco Police Department’s Use of Force policy and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Conner requires that “the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than 20/20 hindsight, without regard to the officer’s underlying intent or motivation.”

Chief Scott said that Officer Flores and Jamaica Hampton, who was also indicted, must be presumed innocent until proven guilty as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Chief Scott concluded his Facebook post:

“While I find today’s indictment surprising and troubling based on the circumstances, I have faith in our judicial system and confidence that justice will ultimately be done in this case.

“The administrative investigations on this case by the San Francisco Police Department and the Department of Police Accountability are pending adjudication.

“The San Francisco Police Department has been as transparent as the law allows regarding the facts of this investigation. Audio and video evidence from the incident was presented in a public town hall on December 17, 2019, and I would encourage members of the public who are interested in this matter to review the evidence online at https://www.sanfranciscopolice.org/…/notes-used.”

 

Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) has been the standard for the application of use of force for more than 30 years.  This case could have a profound impact on the original case law, and begin anew with much more restrictive measures against officers. 

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