Portland, OR – A grand jury cleared a Portland police officer who fatally shot a man during a welfare check in June, sparking riots after Black Lives Matter activists and antifa incorrectly assumed the suspect was black and attacked police at the crime scene.
The incident occurred just after 7 p.m. on June 24 when Portland police officers from the North Precinct attempted to conduct a welfare check on a man at the Motel 6 in the 500-block of NE Holladay Street, KOIN reported.
“After officers arrived with paramedics, they encountered a man matching that description and an officer-involved shooting took place,” the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said in a press release hours after the incident.
“Our officer encountered a very difficult and dynamic situation that no officer wants to face,” PPB Chief Chuck Lovell said in a video statement posted to social media.
Witnesses told KOIN that the incident began as a fight between two men, one of whom stabbed the other.
Surveillance video from the hotel showed the suspect – identified by PPB as 40-year-old Michael Ray Townsend – sitting on the steps of the motel talking to three police officers and three medics.
Suddenly, the police officers backed away from Townsend.
A black officer, later identified as PPB Officer Curtis Brown, drew his weapon and pointed it at Townsend, the video showed.
At the same time, Townsend extended his arm, pointing something at the officers and medics.
The video showed the suspect advanced on the officers and medics who were backing away from him, and then lunged at Officer Brown.
Officer Brown, an 18-year-veteran of the police force, opened fire on Townsend.
The suspect’s weapon turned out to be a deadly, hand-sharpened screwdriver, KGW reported.
The suspect was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead, KOIN reported.
Moments after the shooting occurred, a crowd of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters began to gather.
They started out chanting, but the situation quickly escalated to an attack on the officers.
PPB brought in additional officers to create a perimeter around the crime scene so that the investigation would not be disrupted, but by 11 p.m., the area had become chaos.
Videos filmed at the scene showed protesters were hurling objects at police officers who were standing a line around the crime scene.
Police said in their press release that protesters grabbed a female officer by the baton and tried to drag her into the crowd but other officers were able to intervene.
That’s when someone in the crowd deployed pepper spray at an officer, according to PPB.
Protesters attacked police vehicles, smashing windows and puncturing tires.
Officers were brought in from other areas of the city to help protect the crime scene while officers investigated the shooting, the press release said.
Videos from the scene showed officers in riot gear faced off with protesters for hours.
Just after midnight, PPB tackled the race-related false narrative head on and took to social media to announce that the suspect was white.
The police chief released a statement with the video and explained that it had been released so quickly to combat a false narrative that had led to violent protests at the crime scene on June 24, KATU reported.
“While the investigation is still in its early stages, and releasing evidence at this point is rare, providing this video is critical to combat misinformation being spread,” Chief Lovell said. “Transparency and community trust are extremely important to us, but so is a full, complete, and thorough investigation. This illustrates how important it is to allow the investigation process to unfold before spreading unverified information.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office investigated the officer-involved shooting of Townsend and presented its findings to a grand jury, the Associated Press reported.
The grand jury on Sept. 15 found no basis to charge Officer Brown with criminal wrongdoing, KATU reported.
Prosecutors said that Townsend had consumed a “large amount” of methamphetamine and told responding officers that he wanted to go to the hospital, the Associated Press reported.
But when officers told the suspect that they would have to pat him down and search him for weapons before he went, Townsend became agitated and pulled out the screwdriver that led to his shooting, according to the district attorney’s office.