This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 6, 2006 1:20 AM. The previous post in this blog was America: Dumb and mean, cont'd. The next post in this blog is Say it again. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, January 6, 2006

The dead guy

An update on the latest Portland police shooting: The dead man has been identified as Dennis Lamar Young, 28. Police have a mug shot of him, and as is customary are pointing out that they had had "numerous contacts" with him previously. The car he was driving when he was killed was reportedly stolen. I'm sure we'll be hearing any time now what drugs (if any) he had in him or on him when he died.

In case you were wondering (as I was), from this report here is the recently revised Portland police policy on the use of deadly force, effective this past August 1:

Deadly Physical Force (1010.10)

The Portland Police Bureau recognizes that members may be required to use deadly force when their lives or the life of another is jeopardized by the actions of others. Therefore, state statute and Bureau policy provide for the use of deadly force under the following circumstances:

a. Members may use deadly force to protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.

b. A member may use deadly force to effect the capture or prevent the escape of a suspect where the member has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant and immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the member or others.

c. If feasible, some warning has been given.

The use of statutorily defined deadly weapons, barricades and vehicle ramming, constitutes deadly physical force. Also, depending upon bow they are used, flashlights, batons, body parts, and other statutorily defined dangerous weapons may constitute deadly physical force.

Members must be mindful of the risks inherent in employing deadly force, which may endanger the lives of innocent persons. A member's reckless or negligent use of deadly force is not justified in this policy or state statute. Members are to be aware that this directive is more restrictive than state statutes. Members of the Portland Police Bureau should ensure their actions do not precipitate the use of deadly force by placing themselves or others in jeopardy by engaging in actions that are inconsistent with training the member has received with regard to acceptable training principles and tactics.

Threat indicators, Levels of Control, and Post Use of Force Medical Attention are outlined in detail in DIR 1010.20 Use of Physical Force.

Shooting At a Moving Vehicle (1010.10)

For the purposes of this policy, a moving vehicle itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies the member's use of deadly physical force. The member using deadly physical force must be able to clearly articulate the reason for the use of deadly physical force. Members shall not discharge a firearm at a person(s) in a moving vehicle unless one or both of the following criteria are met:

a. To counter an active threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person, by a person in the vehicle using means other than the vehicle.

b. There are no other means available at the time to avert or eliminate the threat.

Members threatened by an oncoming vehicle should attempt to move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.

In those cases where the criteria are met, Bureau members shall take into account the location, vehicular and pedestrian traffic and any hazard to innocent persons before discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle.

Additional Considerations (1010.10)

A moving vehicle may become an uncontrolled deadly weapon that could seriously injure or kill the occupants of the vehicle and/or subjects in its path if the driver becomes incapacitated before the vehicle comes to a stop.

Members must be mindful of the following when considering the use of deadly physical force involving a vehicle:

a. Bullets fired at occupants of moving vehicles are extremely unlikely to stop or disable the moving vehicle.

b. Bullets fired may miss the intended target or ricochet and cause injury to officers or other innocent persons.

c. The vehicle may crash and cause injury to officers or other innocent persons if the bullets disable the operator.

d. Moving to cover, repositioning, and/or waiting for additional responding units to gain and maintain a superior tactical advantage maximizes officer and public safety and minimizes the necessity for use of deadly physical force.

e. Shooting accurately from a moving vehicle is extremely difficult and, therefore, unlikely to successfully stop or prevent a threat to the member or other innocent person.

These criteria do not allow members to use poor tactics or positioning as justification for discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle. An example of poor tactics would be a situation in which a member places him/herself into the path of a moving vehicle, and uses the danger he/she finds him/herseIf in as the sole justification for shooting at the vehicle. Tactics of this nature are prohibited.

Comments (36)

I'd say that it was pretty imminent danger if he was on meth or coke etc., but I have to agree. Have to presume that he's clean until the police come forward with a baggie in hand.

I have to agree.

I'm not sure I wrote anything to "agree" with. I will say, however, that the legal penalty for being an ex-con passed out in a stolen car and then trying to drive away is not the death penalty.

On the surface this person looks like a bad character, a habitual criminal who will never, unless there is some kind of behavioral miracle, become a law abiding productive member of society. Unfortunately, until the police finish their investigation, and assuming the public will have access to the report, I have insufficient data to formulate an oppinion as to whether the shooting was justified or not. Will the report be released to the public? I would like to read it.

I've been around hard core criminals and meth tweakers. I know this is going to offend the delicate sensibilities of some, but as far as I'm concerned, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if they all dissapeared from the face of the Earth. The term 'Cutthroat' is a literal description that fits them perfectly. Those of us who work to keep our noses clean and be productive members of society are litteraly seen as cattle that can be 'harvested' by these criminals so that they don't have to work at a 'real' job. They have less compassion for us than I do for the chicken I butcher for dinner.

There have been a number of police shootings lately that make me raise an eyebrow. The guy who was shot as he wandered around on a road out in Gresham after crashing his car, and then the guy who was shot in the back by a SERT sniper as he talked on the phone to the crisis negotiator. It's not that I don't think police should have the recourse to violent force, but the whole "if the officer believes the person to be a threat" language is so subjective that it seems to function as a blank check at times.

A couple quick points:

The standard for deadly force is not subjective--it takes more than the officer's mere belief.

Oregon cops have the exact same standard for use of deadly force as regular citizens, save one exception--the fleeing felon doctrine. The difference arises in how cops may be treated by "the system" but that's separate from the legal standards.

Far too little is known now to make a reasonable judgment about this situation.

Of course the suspect was white. Were he black and we knew the exact same information, this would be a huge story complete with protests, Foxworth visiting the family, more silly speculation, etc. Sad but true.

Members shall not discharge a firearm at a person(s) in a moving vehicle unless one or both of the following criteria are met:

a. To counter an active threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person, by a person in the vehicle using means other than the vehicle.

b. There are no other means available at the time to avert or eliminate the threat.

Members threatened by an oncoming vehicle should attempt to move out of its path instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants.

In those cases where the criteria are met, Bureau members shall take into account the location, vehicular and pedestrian traffic and any hazard to innocent persons before discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle.

I think officers are put in a no-win situation when they have guidelines like this to deal with. If an officer takes the time to think about whether he can get out of the way of a car heading his way at 40 mph, thinks about his location, about other traffic and about other potential hazards, he's a dead man before he gets to the second item. If he shoots at a car, a segment of the public will disbelieve his claim that the car was a threat. It's easy to say, get out of the way of the car, but cars can be steered toward officers trying to get out of the way. Dead drivers can't steer.

Criteria (b) does allow a lot of leeway (I'm sure some would say too much leeway), but officers should have leeway -- they're the ones facing the threat. It also seems to me that criteria (b) and the bold-faced paragraph immediately after it are difficult to reconcile.

Note: I'm not saying the car was a threat in this case; I don't know. I just think the combination of the policy and the automatic public reaction to police shootings makes it more difficult for the officers.

more on the policy and the shooter in the portland tribune:


To Joanne R--how in the (blank) can you make a comment about his looks and pass judgment????? I wonder what you look like? It really irks me for people to make judgement calls based on a face (which is a mug shot) and if you ever visited the Multnomah County site showing released people it looks like they are using an ugly lens! See for yourself: http://www.inmatereleases.org/

This guy did nothing but fall asleep at the wheel and got startled by the cops opening his door and scaring him....haven't any of you ever been jolted out of your sleep by anyone? Please get real.

The key passage from the policy is horribly drafted. It says:

Members shall not discharge a firearm at a person(s) in a moving vehicle unless one or both of the following criteria are met:

a. To counter an active threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person, by a person in the vehicle using means other than the vehicle.

b. There are no other means available at the time to avert or eliminate the threat.

It says the officer can shoot if "one or both" of the two conditions exists. How can you ever have "b" without "a"? "The threat" in "b" is described in "a."

It looks to me as though a first draft said "both," and then in a political push and pull, the phrase "one or" was inserted. The result makes no sense.

In an important, life-and-death context like this, one would have hoped for, at the very least, clearer drafting.

While I might agree with you earilier comments, and yes I have been jolted awake and had the crap scared out of me, it is not often that I am startled awake in a stolen vehicle in an area of town I am not from with a criminal background. Important facts.

with a criminal background

How is this relevant at all to the police shooting this man dead? Even if they knew about his background before they shot and tasered him, which seems unlikely?

Have we become so desensitized that killing someone becomes OK if they have a criminal background? Is 'meth' the code-word for 'sub-human'? Or an excuse to get rid of an undesirable element of the population?

I wonder how conflicted the Right feels about these police-induced abortions...

"I wonder how conflicted the Right feels about these police-induced abortions..."

Not at all. The right to life expires at birth.

Now wait a second--there is a big difference between a car traveling 40 mph and one that guns into reverse. It could be going, at best, 10 or 15 mph.

Along with others, I have been disturbed at the PPS's use of deadly force in a number of recent situations. I still don't understand the lack of outcry about the clearly disturbed naked guy on his car in Clackamas County.

What the hell happened to good old billy clubs to take a guy like that down? No weapons, no threatening gestures, but he's driving and behaving erratically, so you gun him down?

Just a for what it's worth with regards to kp's statement about the time it would take to assess the situation according to policy:

A skilled professional would have already gauged all of these factors before ever engaging the suspect, much the way a professional baseball player would have already observed the location of the fielders along with all of the other situational factors before a pitch is thrown. Now, I'm not saying anyone could eliminate all variables beforehand, but one should certainly be able to minimize their number.

With regard to reconciling clause b and the bold paragraph after it, I think "members" is the key. The bold paragraph indicates the way a cop should behave if the vehicle is directed at him, but as clause A explains, the active threat of death or serious injury could be directed at someone other than the cop with the gun. (This has to take into consideration the seeming impossibility of there being a B without an A, as Jack pointed out earlier.)

What happens if it's James Jordan, father of Michael, that you find sleeping behind the wheel of a very nice vehicle? That's where thieves shot and killed Jordan in 1993. He'd pulled off the highway to catch some z's, like I've done a few times myself. Had the police happened upon Jordan that night, they would have found a black man sleeping in a Lexus. As they approach the car, does he get the presumption of innocence? Or does he get something else? Cops in Portland seem to lean toward door #2.

If I fell asleep in my car (or was sitting there drunk or stupid), and a cop knocked on my door, I would roll down the window and asked him if I did something wrong. I certainly wouldn't stomp on the gas and try to get away. Whether or not I realized he was a cop, I certainly wouldn't try to back into the unidentified person simply because he tapped on my window.

The fact the perp was in a stolen car just adds fuel to the fire that this wasn't a hapless citizen simply snoozing off a few too many beers.

It comes down to basic self preservation: the cops have guns, and they represent the rule of law. If you run from them, expect to be chased. If you try to assault them (with a knife, a bat, or a car), I expect them to defend themselves, and to discharge their weapon if they percieve me as a threat.

My father was career law enforcement. That said, when I am pulled over for a traffic stop, I keep my hands on the wheel, and ask their permission before I reach for the glove box to retrieve my registration and insurance. It's just common sense, and I'm a law abiding (white) citizen. I still avoid making any abrupt movements that could be misunderstood in any way.

I've been ticketed three times over the last decade, and I was always polite, compliant, and friendly. I never got tased, shot, or abused by the police: I attribute that to my conduct; not the color of my skin.


According to the hyperlinked articles, Mr. Young was not awakened by a tap at the window, but rather by a cop opening up the door and grabbing/shaking him.

If this happened to me and I didn't recognize the person as a cop, I would maybe be compelled to a slightly more urgent response than a query about the acceptability of my actions.

Everyone here is Monday morning quarterbacking this with nothing more than news reporting on information that has been released. When and if everything is known and out for public record it may be found that the shoot was not justified. Or, it may be found to have been reasonable. In the context of looking at things in hind sight by those outside the situation it is reasonable to acknowledge that this was not just a hapless individual who awoke to find himself confronted by the police while lounging around in a stolen vehicle. Having a criminal background is not justification for being shot. However, I'm quite sure that you or I and probably most other law abiding citizens would react to this situation far differently than this guy did.

I feel bad for both the officer and the family and loved ones of the individual who was shot. Regardless of status, politics, race, sex or creed these kinds of events are tragic.

I'll bet a $100 the officer tapped on the window with a flashlight in advance of opening the door.

Standard Operating Procedure. When the perp didn't respond, he opened the door.

I assume the officer was on duty, and wearing his uniform. The correct response for the perp would be to give up. He chose not to. Bad choice.

Trigger happy cops and poorly drafted legislation don't make me feel safe-or like I live in a truly free society. Will ANY police shooting ever be deemed unjustified?; I can see it now: "he or she had books and papers stacked on the passenger seat and I thought he/she was reaching for a gun, not a driver's license."

npdxneighbor -

I wasn't refering to his appearance inthe mug shot but to the criminal history that was highlighted in the article that was linked to in Jack's original post.

I of all persons should know that you shouldn't judge a person on first appearances. I drive a beat up old Ford truck and yet I'm a top tile and stone installer in the Portland area. I've been entrusted with work on multimillion dollar houses both in Oregon and elsewhere and have never failed a client yet.

And how is it that he happened to fall asleep in a stolen vehicle?

Jack -

How is this relevant at all to the police shooting this man dead?

I gota agree with you there. I DO NOT think that he should have been killed. At least based on the information that I have at present.

Joanne R: the Portland P.D. is actively seeking female candidates for sworn officer positions.

Why not put yourself in harms way...walk a mile in another man's shoes (so to speak). Perhaps if the bad guy was trying to mow you down with his car, you might not feel so circumspect.

I bet the PPD made a New Year's Resolution to needlessly kill a few white people so all the other unnecessary killings would appear less racist.

Alan: what makes you believe this killing was unnecessary?

Perhaps Mr. Young was disinterested in another jail sentence for "unlawful use of a motor vehicle". It's worth remembering that many car thefts are never successfully prosecuted. Mr. Young was prosecuted five times, but likely stole more than five cars. This may have been a case of "suicide by cop."

According to the Oregonian:

Young had been in and out of jail and prison since 1997. He was convicted of five counts of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, and possession of a controlled substance, robbery and theft. He also was arrested several times on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants.

He was released from prison Sept. 20, 2005, after serving time for a probation violation for the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and he was on post-prison supervision at the time of his death, said Perrin Damon, a spokeswoman with the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Alice -
I wasn't being circumspect. If I thought that someone was trying to mow me down I'd drop 'em in a hartbeat. I wouldn't hesitate and I wouldn't feel sorry about it. I've had to defend myself in the past, although not to those extremes, quite. I'm just saying that I don't know the details of the shooting and I'm reserving judgement on the cop's decision until I do know them. Personally I wouldn't be a cop for any amount of money, I'd probably shoot first and ask questions later way too often.

Mr. T,

Was the officer reading those quotes from the Oregonian when he fired?

My point is not the officer knew he was dealing with a multi-offense vehicle thief and drunk driver.

Quite the opposite: Mr. Young may have decided he was willing to risk getting shot in order to have a glimmer of a getaway chance.
Alternately, Mr. Young may have wanted to die: Death by Cop may be viewed as a more desirable outcome than plain vanilla suicide for someone who is depressed, tired of prison/jail time, or simply drunk out of their mind.

And so he consciously chose to sleep in a car in front of an officer's sister's home. Yeah. I'm sure he planned his suicide carefully.

Alan: I'm not suggesting he "planned his suicide" in advance. Rather, when confronted with the likelihood of arrest, he (with or without forethought) had to make a quick decision: get arrested, or flee. He apparently attempted to flee. When he realized that attempt was likely to fail, he could have put the car in park and put his hands on his head (even if he was drunk out of his mind, a five time car thief likely knew the drill). Instead, he put the car into reverse. Bad decision.

You can put the entire onus of blame on the cop; I believe a portion (if not 90%) of the blame likely belongs to Mr. Young. He made some bad choices that put himself in the position of getting shot. The police officer is authorized to use force when his/her life is threatened; they are not taught to fire a warning shot, or aim for the leg. They are taught to shoot until the threat is neutralized.

We don't pay our police officers to get run over or injured. That's not their job. If you want to denigrate the police every time a criminal makes bad decisions, you will wind up with a less responsive police force. Think about that the next time you hear glass breaking in your house, or you learn that a friend or neighbor was assualted by a stranger. How much restraint would you like the police to use when your life is threatened?

Responding to the "suicide by cop" theory:

No - not in this case.

I've known Squeaky (Dennis Young) for many years both prior to and during his criminal vocation. I am a law-abiding professional who earns everything I get and have never condoned his criminal behavior. I loved him as a child of my own often having him in my house for family birthdays, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. I can guarantee to anyone with doubts - he had no suicidal ideation with the exception of slow suicide by meth from an addiction seemingly beyond his control and fed by some who profess their love for him.

When I first saw the news flash reporting the shooting death and hearing that the victim had fallen asleep behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle, the first thought that came to me was, 'that sounds like Squeaky!' Two days later my fears were confirmed.

My theory is that Squeaky woke with a start (probably after being up for days on end) and the flight won over the fight. Getting shot was not in his plans and, as I have a personal connection with Squeaky's mother, there is much more about this case that the general public is unaware of. The media gives only what they are told and, in this case, it is incorrect. This shooting WAS NOT justified.

Hard to know what was in his mind at the moment he put the car in reverse. I would be amazed he had any cognitive function left after the self abuse you described.

Whether Mr. Young wished to die or not, it is hard for me to understand why anybody (including his family) would see this as entirely the cop's fault. Stolen car. High on meth for days. Slumped over the wheel (of the stolen car) asleep. Not exactly a recipe for staying out of trouble. Why "Squeaky"?

Being in the Mental Health/Chemical Dependency field, I know of something of the pathology with meth addiction. One of the components is the lack of thought behind actions and the euphoric "I am invincible". Squeaky was right there and despite our efforts to help him help himself, it did play a part in his undoing directly or indirectly. Yes he was passed out behind the wheel of an idling stolen vehicle but we cannot know if his death was entirely the fault of the officer until the numerous questions and inconsistencies are addressed. Will we ever know? I certainly hope so. I speak for my family, his and myself as well as the citizens of Portland and beyond.
"Why Squeaky?" I am assuming you are speaking of his nickname so I'll address that. From birth, he did not cry as we know babies to cry - he squeaked. The name stuck.

My condolences to you and Mr. Young's family, Beth.

Irrespective of causality and blame, I am very sorry his family must endure the loss of their son's life in this most public fashion. I hope that Mr. Young did not have any children.

I shudder at the thought of my own son falling into addiction or a life devoid of meaning.

21 years ago this month I shot and killed an armed robber who was holding a hostage at knifepoint and threatening to kill him.

To this day I can see the eyes of the man held hostage. They were focused on me, not the knife poised above him. Because he knew that I, not the knife, was his only hope of survival.

And I shot. And I killed. And the hostage lived. He promised me he would always stay in touch. But I have never heard from him again.

But he is in my dreams. And I bet I am in his.

Police work is tough. Killing people is tougher. Sometimes it is black and white, sometimes gray.

Cops do the best they can. Really. No one goes to work hoping they will kill someone.

I have been to the funerals of officers and of citizens and they are all sad and senseless.

Who the hell am I? Just some retired cop. But I have actually done the job, done the awful job of killing.

You can listen to the commanders and spokesmen and sheriffs and chiefs who tell you the officer had no choice.

But for the most part all those cops never pulled the trigger.

For us shooter cops we know we had a choice.

And we made the right choice.

Thank you Mr. T, your wishes are accepted w/ heartfelt gratitude and give me some comfort. Squeaky did have a child; an 11 y/o son who will struggle with trying to understand it all. How confusing and sad for a child of any age.

CW: How fortunate that I can actually visualize your face - seen so many times on TV. From a young age (certainly as long as I can remember) I was educated that law enforcement officials are our friends and there to "protect and serve" but as time goes on, I question many things. In light of the recent increase in officer related shootings - I struggle to understand why...just why an unarmed may is brought under control in that fashion.
Thank you CW, for your input.

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