OPINION: Trials of former cops leave questions unanswered
Earlier this month, Washington County Circuit Judge Brandon Thompson found former Forest Grove Police Officer officer Bradley Schuetz not guilty of official misconduct.
Twenty months ago, Schuetz drove his friend Steven Teets home without arresting him, even though there was probable cause. Teets had just been located next to the scene where he had destroyed the Castaneda family's belongings and tried to kick in their door and start a fight.
I observed most of Schuetz's trial, and I respect the judge's reasoning. Schuetz immediately had a message sent to the sergeant above him. He understood the sergeant and sheriff would take over, because Teets was his colleague, and his involvement would pollute the investigation.
Would this not have been crystal-clear to the investigators and to the county district attorney when they decided who to bring to trial? Why weren't Jeremy Lazenby or the sheriff's deputy on trial for official misconduct, instead of Schuetz?
In related news, last week, Judge Gary Williams ruled Teets guilty of criminal mischief, but not disorderly conduct.
I observed most of this trial also. I learned that in Oregon, to be convicted of disorderly conduct, it requires intent to disturb the public, not only the victim.
So, why was a disorderly conduct charge ever made against Teets in the first place? It was clear in the 9-1-1 call that it was after midnight in a residential area with no public audience.
The judge noted how Teets acted in an extremely disturbing way, intentionally targeting the victims' home, terrifying them. They reasonably feared for their lives, and made ready with a bat to defend themselves.
Why was Teets not charged with menacing? The family feared imminent physical injury. They saw what he did to their stuff in the yard. Now he was coming for them. How is that not menacing?
It is preposterous, in my opinion, to classify what Teets did as "criminal mischief," in the same category as some fool spilling an unoccupied portable toilet for a laugh.
Will no one hold police accountable for failing to arrest Teets, and failing to promptly present Teets — or his photo — to the Castaneda family for identification? They left the family in the dark about Teets at first, and later provided only his name.
So, understandably, Mirella Castaneda looked him up online. At Teets' trial, the judge could not take her identification of the perpetrator into account because the act of looking at his image online tainted her report.
Even if Castaneda had not Googled Teets, how long could she have avoided seeing his face in the news over the past 20 months while the trial was pushed forward over and over? They basically guaranteed that her later identification in court would be seen as tainted, and dismissed. Police response confused the victims and created technical barriers for later testimony.
Who will hold police accountable to make sure this doesn't happen again?
Charlotte Lumae is a local educator and small business owner. She volunteers with Western WashCo for Racial Justice (WWRJ).
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