Family of man shot by police sue city, officers
The wife of a 48-year-old man shot to death by police in early April says the city of Portland and eight law enforcement officers violated her husband's constitutional rights when they opened fire in a Southeast Portland men's shelter.
Barbara Elifritz, wife of John A. Elifritz, sued the city, seven police officers and a sheriff's deputy in federal court Tuesday, May 22. John Elifritz was shot to death at about 8 p.m. April 7, as he suffered a mental health crisis and tried to hide in the Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter during a crowded Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Attorney Timothy Volpert, representing Barbara Elifritz and her family, claimed in the lawsuit that the officers shot John Elifritz "without lawful justification. When he was shot, John Elifritz presented no threat to the defendant officers, the defendant Multnomah County deputy or to anyone else."
Volpert wrote that the "unconstitutional policies and practices of the Portland Police Bureau result in the unjustified police-involved shooting deaths of people suffering from a mental health crisis, including John Elifritz." The lawsuit asks that the court award an unspecified amount in damages against the law enforcement officers and the city. It also asks the court to block the city from using "policies, practices and customs shown to encourage the use of excessive and unreasonable force and the extrajudicial shooting of civilians, particularly individuals suffering from mental health challenges."
The city of Portland does not comment on pending litigation. No court date has been set for the lawsuit.
In early May, a Multnomah County grand jury has ruled that police were justified in the fatal shooting. Elifritz died after a crime spree that started with a carjacking on that Saturday afternoon. He later crashed the stolen car near the Cityteam Ministries Portland Shelter on Southeast Grand, police say, which he ran into.
According to grand jury testimony, witnesses said Elifritz had a knife and lunged at police before they opened fire on him. The Multnomah County district attorney's office says the grand jury heard four days of testimony.