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People can be denied recognizance release by jail officials if they pose a threat to the community

Before Andre Coleman was arrested for allegedly breaking into a Portland church and chasing a security officer with a knife earlier this month, he was in the custody of the Clackamas County Jail on multiple accusations of trespassing and harassment in Estacada.

In light of the incident in Portland, Coleman, 37, faces accusations of first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal mischief, unlawful possession of methamphetamine, second-degree burglary and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. According to court documents, Coleman plans to plead not guilty to these charges.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: CLACKAMAS COUNTY JAIL - Andre Coleman

On Sunday, Jan. 7, Portland Police officers were notified of a burglary in progress at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 1432 S.W. 13th Ave., according to a probable cause affidavit. When the officer reached the scene, she reportedly saw Coleman sprinting after a security officer and threatening to beat him.

Coleman was taken into custody shortly thereafter.

A witness told police he saw Coleman in the church's pantry holding a knife after the building had been locked for the night. Coleman allegedly held the knife toward the witness and chased after him when he ran.

A second witness told police he saw Coleman holding a meat cleaver.

Inside the church, police say they found a hatchet, cleaver and two large knives that it appeared Coleman used to cause damage to doors, windows and several other areas.

Coleman told police he went into the church to find his girlfriend, whom he claimed had been kidnapped one week prior.

Several weeks before the incident in Portland, Coleman was arrested four times within the span of five days on accusations of verbal harassment, threatening behavior, disorderly conduct and trespassing in Estacada. Officials from the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office said they have received three trespassing cases involving Coleman for review.

After Coleman was arrested in Estacada on Dec. 23, 24 and 27, he was released on his own recognizance from the Clackamas County Jail. After an arrest on Dec. 28, he was released because the District Attorney's Office opted against filing charges at the time.

Policy at the Clackamas County Jail dictates that people who are held on a probable-cause arrest for non-violent misdemeanor crimes are eligible for release on their own recognizance. When people are released on these circumstances, they are generally required to be present at a future court date.

The jail's policy further outlines that people who are eligible for recognizance release are those that:

  • Have an address in Oregon;
  • Are not under the influence of drugs and alcohol;
  • Have no holds or warrants in other jurisdictions and do not have a "no bail" provision in Clackamas County;
  • Are not on parole or probation;
  • Have no recent record of escape or failing to appear in court; and,
  • Have not been accused of a violent crime.
  • When those conditions are met, the county will release people from jail on the promise that they will appear in court when scheduled.

    Additionally, the supervising corrections officer may deny recognizance release to a person who otherwise meets the standards if they appear to be a threat to the community.

    Capt. Lee Eby of the Clackamas County Jail said an individual often is considered a threat to the community if they have exhibited violent behavior or a propensity for it.

    Eby declined to discuss Coleman's case specifically, but said returning to a location after being prohibited from returning, as Coleman is charged with in Estacada, is not always considered a threat.

    "Returning somewhere doesn't necessarily make it a public threat," he said.

    He noted that an instance of an individual being charged with both trespassing and stalking, however, could be considered a threat.

    The Clackamas County Jail also follows a forced release system to help with overcrowding, though Eby did not say whether there was any correlation to Coleman's releases on recognizance and the forced release system.

    "I don't know," he said, noting that he didn't have the specific details for those days. "It's possible."

    The forced released system is set up to determine which individuals present the least risk to society when the jail reaches 90 percent of its housing capacity.

    The jail has 465 beds, and its daily population for 2017 was approximately 480 people. That same year, 3,491 individuals were forced released.

    When releasing individuals from jail, the system takes into consideration multiple factors, including an individual's current charges and criminal history.

    "A lot goes into it. A person with a minor charge could stay because of their history," Eby said. "Measure 11 and murder crimes are too high (of a risk). Theft may not be as high of a risk. Ideally we would be able to hold them all, but unfortunately that's not the reality."

    Previous convictions and drug use

    According to Multnomah County County Court documents, Coleman has been a transient for the last 20 years, and has lived at four residences in the last year. Prior to moving to the Portland region 18 months ago, Coleman lived in Oakland, Calif. While he has no prior convictions in Oregon, he has been accused of second-degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, multiple instances of possessing and distributing a controlled substance, grand theft, carrying a concealed weapon, second-degree burglary, resisting arrest, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and probation violation.

    According to court documents, he has been convicted of 15 felonies.

    Additional court documents from Multnomah County posit that Coleman would be a danger to himself and others should he be released pretrial. Coleman said he takes methamphetamine several times per week, and his ex-girl-friend said he becomes violent and changes into a different person when he uses drugs.

    A friend of Coleman's ex-girlfriend told court officials he is abusive when he does drugs. She is particularly concerned because Coleman believes she is the one who kidnapped his former girlfriend and thinks he would be violent toward her if he had the opportunity.

    Coleman told court officials that he has a history of mental health issues, including schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. His ex-girlfriend said that she had never seen him take medication for these disorders and that he uses drugs to self-medicate.

    A settlement conference has been scheduled for Thursday, March 15.

    Coleman will await that appearance from the Multnomah County Jail.

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