Sunday, February 28, 2010

Suicide by cop - narration

Suicide by Cop (SBC) is a suicide method in which a person engages in actual or apparent danger to others in an attempt to get oneself killed or injured by law enforcement. [ScienceDaily]. See this post for Suicide by cop - the concept.

Aaron Campbell was fatally shot by Portland Police Officer Frashour. The media, in this case the Oregonian, has fanned the flames of racism and has demonized the officer. Irresponsible journalism is the kindest way to put it.

Police documents and grand jury transcripts have been released. There is more than enough information for the public to read and come to their own conclusions without the help of biased media.

The transcripts are probably sufficient in themselves. They are a must read because they tell a story that flows fairly well from beginning to end. It is a documentary, not fiction. It is an education too about police procedure in cases like this. You can't feign ignorance when material is there to be read.

While 445 pages of transcripts might seem daunting, they are legal formatted pages with a lot of white space. There are only 25 lines per page in a question and answer format. The questions are short and direct and the answers are relatively brief. Significant amount of text space is consumed by irrelevant information and can be easily skipped.

It becomes apparent that there are few differences in eyewitness testimony from either the civilian or police witnesses. And whatever the differences – they are insignificant. If one can put the media bias aside and read the story told by the transcripts, the outcome was predictable from the very beginning and it was clear that any police officer put in the place of Officer Frashour's would have fired the fatal shot.

None of the police officers at the scene were rookie cops, most were veterans with many years. They all were trained for a particular role. That is each had a specific job to do. No officer had more than one role to play.

An officer trained in crisis intervention (in fact all officers are so trained) was on the scene; also, there was sergeant from the hostage negotiation team, there was command staff including high ranking personnel, an officer with the bean bag gun, a K9 unit, and officer Frashour providing cover from a distance.

The testimony of Adrieanna (Angie} Jones is extremely important to read. She is often designated as Mr. Campbell's girlfriend but was not. They had two children together but they had ceased their relationship some two or more years ago. Their two children provided the connection between them.

From her testimony, it becomes clear that Mr. Campbell wanted to be fatally shot and that he was going to be shot. From her we come to understand the emotional state of Mr. Campbell. He became very despondent because of the death of his brother Tim earlier in the day (Friday) of the shooting.

Tim died in the hospital while waiting for a second heart transplant. He had one ten years ago, and it was time for another. The heart failure had affected Tim's kidneys. It wasn't clear in the transcripts, but he may have needed a kidney transplant too.

He had been in the hospital for 15 days. Eight of those days Aaron had lived in the same room staying by his brother's side day and night. However, Aaron left on the Wednesday before the incident and went to Angie Jones' apartment.

Angie's apartment was the locale for the fatal incident. She lived there with her three children, two from her and Aaron's earlier relationship. He left the hospital after apparently arguing with his brother about Aaron wanting to give him his heart.

Anyone who has ever had to go through the ordeal of watching someone you care about with a major illness suffering and knowing that death was imminent understands his emotions.

After he went to Angie's apartment the despondency caught up with him. On Thursday Aaron, according to Angie, attempted suicide 4 times which failed because the gun failed. She saw the gun and later she saw him put the gun away in his coat pocket after removing the bullets.

Thursday saw Aaron drinking a lot of wine and doing a lot of crying. Angie testified about past domestic violence of Aaron when they were living together 2 or more years ago. She mentioned that she heard that he was hospitalized at one time for overdosing on pills before she and he were together.

And, Angie testified that Thursday evening he said to her that “maybe I should go rob a bank and then hide the money somewhere and have the police kill me cause if he killed his self he knew he would go to hell and he wouldn't be able to be with his brother, So if he had somebody else do it then he would go to heaven and be with him.”

Friday didn't seem to bring Aaron any relief. He was still drinking wine. He accused his mother of doing something to cause his brother's death. It ought to be clear that his despondency seemed to be increasing and possibly hitting its worst point.

At some time apparently on Friday, Aaron had his mind made up. Angie Jones states in a police interview that Aaron had posted a message on Facebook “that read, "I'm next, I'll see you soon." She also said he had a signature at the end of all text messages he sent out via his cellular phone that read, "R.I.P. to my brother Tim, I'm next, I'll see you soon." [Police documents].

Also, Aaron's maternal aunt in a police interview said “that she was aware Campbell had posted on his Facebook account that Campbell's mother would be burying two sons today.”

I have left out much that additionally points to just how despondent he must have been. From Angie's testimony and that of his mother Marva Davis – there must have been an unusual closeness between Aaron and his brother Tim. Whether there was other factors that might have caused his despondency is not found in the transcripts or police interviews.

It was Angie that precipitated two 911 calls. She didn't call herself it seems because she was afraid that what happened would happen and she thought that she could get the gun away and talk him out of any further suicide attempts.

Angie had communicated with Sherry Stewart her aunt about Aaron's situation. The aunt became nervous about the fact that there were three kids there in the apartment with Aaron and Angie and that he was suicidal. She called 911 and told them about the situation.

Courtney Jones, Angie's mother, called 911 after she had received a phone call from her middle daughter about the situation at Angie's apartment. Ms. Jones immediately called 911.

In her testimony she related the consequences of a similar situation where “the dad and mom and the son, and he took – all of their lives.” It is the overriding concern of the police in these situations.

When the police arrived they all knew that Aaron had attempted to kill himself, that he was seeking suicide by cop, that the Angie and three children were there with Aaron in the apartment, and that he had a gun. It would appear too that some, but maybe not all officers, knew Aaron's criminal history.

At this point, neither Angie nor Aaron was aware that the police was outside. She left the apartment because she saw her dad outside. Once outside the police prevented her from going back in. While she was outside, Aaron became aware of the police. She had started texting with Aaron, but the police took her phone; however, Aaron had just texted a message to the effect “I'm out to get my gun. I'm not playing.”

The police starting using her cell phone to communicate with Aaron. It seemed that Aaron had some humor in his texting about the cops texting. The police were attempting to make sure he wasn't going hurt himself or the children. He just wanted the police to go away.

After the police inquired about the children Aaron without being asked sent the children out. This was an unexpected event. And since Angie and the children were out of the apartment, the police determined to take thing slow because time was on their side.

The negotiators were at a point where they were ready to leave if they could be assured his state of mind, that is, he wasn't going to hurt himself or others. They communicated this to him, and apparently through cell phone difficulties the clarity of communication became poor and the line dropped.

Unexpectedly – to all of the police personnel, Aaron came outside without being asked. The testimony by the police and civilian witnesses about what transpired was nearly the same.

Aaron was not facing the police, but already had his hands on his head in the manner they would have asked him to do. The police were shouting their standard phrases like walk backwards, keep your hands on your head, etc.

Most witnesses noted that Aaron started backwards at a fast pace. Some said running, the officer shouting commands called it jogging, but it was clear that it was faster than expected with the police yelling for him to “stop.”

Once he stopped Aaron would not obey any of the commands the police were yelling at him. There was a warning issued that he might be shot if he failed to obey the commands. Aaron's response was something to the effect “go ahead and shoot me.” He was told to put his hands straight up in the air. This is usually the point where the police have the person turn 360 to see if there are any guns in the waistband.

It is not real clear the exact distance between where Aaron had stopped and the apartment or the police cars. The police documents have him backing up to within 15 to 20 feet of the patrol cars. The patrol cars were estimated to be 30 yards from the apartment. It is a good distance.

Aaron refuses to put his hands up. He just stands there. An officer shot a bean bag. When it appeared that Aaron was going to run – another bean bag was fired. But he is off and running. More bean bags were fired. Aaron's hands are off his head. The bean bags are not having the expected compliance effect. In all 6 bean bags were fired.

Aaron is now running away from the officers, his hands are no longer on top of his head, bean bags are being fired, commands are shouted for him to stop, he is nearing the apartment entrance.

As he is running, he is being shot with the beanbags; it is clear that he is using one hand to reach down to his waistband. The police felt he was reaching for a weapon.

One civilian witness, Mr. Snow, in a narration during a police interview stated that he thought that Aaron was “reaching for what, to me, looked like just an object, a dark object. Urn, he did not fully get it from his waistband urn, when a, when I heard a gunshot and the gentleman was hit . . . .”

Later in response to questions Mr Snow stated: “Um, when he then proceeded to go for cover and what appeared to be, he was reaching back, urn, for a weapon. Like I said, it was an object that I was not sure if it was a gun or not.”

As Aaron was running toward the apartment, two things occurred nearly simultaneously as Aaron was reaching a Volvo parked in front of apartment – the dog was set loose and the fatal shot was fired. Witnesses could not definitely say which occurred first.

Given the circumstances, Mr. Campbell died just as if he had shot himself.


© 2010

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