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Records reveal details in PSU shooting and its aftermath
This story has been updated.
Racial tension was in the air in the lead-up to and the fallout from Jason Washington's death, according to newly released documents on the officer-involved shooting.
Washington, an African-American Navy veteran, father of three and U.S. Post Office worker, had taken a friend's gun and was trying to de-escalate a fight when he was shot dead by two Portland State University officers early in the morning of June 29, several witness statements reveal.
The incident will be the subject of a protest next Monday, Sept. 24, at noon at Portland State University, as activists continue their calls to disarm campus police.
Washington's family members have said repeatedly that they believe his death was a result of his skin color. In a statement released following a grand jury decision not to indict Officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie, Washington's wife and attorneys promised to explore other legal options.
Many witnesses appeared to believe the shooting was wrongful in its immediate aftermath. A report from one of the first on-scene officers describes a group of men advancing on the two officers, accusing them of murder. The same accusations can also be seen in body camera footage from the event.
The body camera footage, which PSU released Sept. 14, shows a chaotic scene in the approximately 15 seconds from the time officers left their vehicles to when they shot Washington. After seeing a gun Washington had holstered to the outside of his shorts — likely owned by his nearby white friend Jeremy Wilkinson — officers quickly and repeatedly shouted at Washington to stop and drop his gun. He continued walking away and was shot multiple times.
An Oregon State Police forensics report found 17 fired cartridges on the scene. An autopsy released Wednesday by the Multnomah County Medical Examiner said Washington suffered nine gunshot wounds.
It is unclear what started the fight that night between the two intoxicated, mixed-race groups of men, but several pointed to a racial epithet escalating the tensions.
Wilkinson was accused by a couple of witnesses of calling someone a "n—-er." However, he told police he doesn't remember what started the fight but it wasn't him, and that calling someone a racial slur is "just not who I am."
According to Wilkinson's account, a group of men wouldn't leave them alone until he crossed the street to confront them, handing his sidearm to Washington.
Mohamed Tuffa, a black man, told police he was inside The Cheerful Tortoise bar when he heard about a fight outside. Tuffa subsequently video-recorded the argument between Washington's group and Tuffa's unidentified friends. This appeared to anger Wilkinson, who grabbed the phone and threw it to the ground. A scuffle ensued and a white man, Patrick Dean, kicked Wilkinson in the head.
Tuffa was so intoxicated, according to police, that he lay his head down on the table while giving an interview.
Wilkinson told police he doesn't clearly remember certain portions of the evening. He acknowledged having two whiskey shots and several beers during the course of a bar crawl that started around 2 p.m. June 28. His attorney also said he was diagnosed with a concussion after being kicked in the head. Wilkinson said he didn't know police were at the scene until after his best friend lay dying beside him on the pavement.
"Holy sh—, Michelle is going to kill me," Wilkinson said in a June 30 police recording, referencing Washington's wife. "I gave him my gun. He got in trouble for that. Oh my gosh."
Wilkinson told police that he was carrying his firearm "fully loaded with one in the chamber," as he usually does. He said he gave the gun and holster to Washington before crossing the street to get into it with a group of men that included Tuffa.
'Everybody loves him'
Tuffa said repeatedly in his police interview that he was tackled to the ground by Portland Police Bureau officers when they arrived.
Officer reports contradict this claim. In body camera footage, Tuffa got on the ground after police shot Washington, raising his hands in the air and pleading with officers that it was "not my fault." Tuffa sits up momentarily and Dean gently pushes Tuffa back to the ground. As Tuffa lays on the ground, Dean and a group of other seemingly Caucasian men begin arguing with officers and advancing on them, some with cell phones held up.
In his police interview, Tuffa repeatedly stated that he was "instigating," though doesn't expand on what that means.
Keyairah Smith, who is friends with Tuffa and Dean, told police Wilkinson was being very aggressive and that one of the men was waving a gun around. Dean somehow learned that Washington had a gun and a concealed carry permit, as the footage shows he yelled at the campus officers about it immediately after the shooting.
Wilkinson and Washington's Navy buddy, Ryan Pratt, a white man, said he thought the argument started over sports. In his police interview the night of the shooting, he said repeatedly that he didn't believe in carrying guns unless you had to.
"... It breeds an animosity that like — you have something over somebody and then if you do that and you have that over somebody then they feel like they need to do it over you," Pratt said that night in a patrol car. "That's why I've never agreed with it in my whole life. I've never carried, I don't agree with it."
Wilkinson stopped his initial June 30 interview with police after a friend got him a lawyer.
When the conversation resumed, on July 12, an officer asked:
"Is it fair to say Jason's role, was he trying to break the fight up or?"
"Oh absolutely," Wilkinson replied, according to the police transcript. "I, he was trying to break the fight up. He, he wanted us to get out of there ... He doesn't, he doesn't argue with anybody. Everybody loves him, he just gets along with everybody."
Portland State University has promised a full independent review of the incident. Officers McKenzie and Dewey are back at work but on desk duty.
UPDATE (9/21/18): The incorrect day of the week was given for the Sept. 24 march on PSU. It is Monday.
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