Dozens in Forest Grove march for James Marshall
Candles lit Rogers Park, a few blocks from where James Marshall lived, on Friday night, Oct. 8, to remember the Forest Grove man on the anniversary of his deadly encounter with city police.
While leading a march of about 50 people to the police department and back, family members carried symbolic miniature American flags. They contend that dispatchers should have called in a Washington County mental health response team instead of the cops.
Officers tasered and tackled the 44-year-old Marshall as he stood in a doorway at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, holding a large flag.
Marshall died a day after the altercation after falling into a coma. The autopsy report concluded his cause of death was "excited delirium," a controversial condition that often is invoked to explain deaths of individuals in police custody.
"James' civil rights were violated. They need to be held accountable for not calling a mental health evaluator," family member Cricket Henry said. "They had that tool. They didn't use it."
Washington County has a mental health response team, featuring a deputy and a clinician paired together in a patrol call. The county said the unit responded to nearly 5,000 calls in 2019.
Officer Steven Teets, who used a Taser stun gun on Marshall one to three times during the encounter, according to a Pamplin Media Group investigation, was investigated by the Washington County District Attorney's Office and found not criminally culpable for Marshall's death.
"They spent several minutes trying to calmly talk this guy into dropping his flagpole," Jeff Lesowski, the chief deputy district attorney who reviewed the case to determine if the officers involved should be prosecuted, told Pamplin Media Group last spring.
The Washington County District Attorney's Office is still prosecuting Teets, 44, over a separate incident later in October 2020, although court records show he was granted permission to travel on vacation to Washington and Idaho this summer.
Teets was indicted by a Washington County grand jury for second degree criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors, and is awaiting trial Dec. 15.
Drunk and off-duty, early in the morning hours of Oct. 31, he stormed a Forest Grove residence that displayed a Black Lives Matter flag, pounding at the door after midnight.
"He was trying to barge into my house — kick my door in, everything. That's not a fireable offense?" said Mirella Castaneda, who came out to the memorial Friday night to show support for Marshall's family. "An individual can be so violent like that? Obviously, we need some changes."
Teets was allegedly so intoxicated he did not recognize the police officers who intercepted him after Castaneda called 9-1-1.
Officer Bradley Schuetz, who took Teets home that night instead of arresting him, was charged in May with misdemeanor misconduct and is scheduled to be on trial in January.
Under state law, Forest Grove Police Department spokesperson Andrew Colasurdo said Teets is still on administrative leave with pay from the department, pending an internal investigation by the city separate from the criminal investigation.
"Disciplinary action cannot be determined until the investigation and judicial process is complete. Due process, state labor relation laws and terms of the union bargaining agreement must be adhered to for a successful outcome," Colasurdo said. "While necessary components, these factors can lengthen the disciplinary process. We acknowledge the community's frustration and appreciate everyone's continued patience."
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