Officer recalls 'begging' Jason Washington to drop gun
Two Portland State University police officers believed their lives were in danger in the moments before they unleashed a fatal volley at a man pointing a gun at them, according to a newly-released transcript.
PSU patrol officers James Dewey and Shawn Allen McKenzie were cleared of all charges by a Multnomah County Grand Jury for the shooting death of Jason Washington in downtown Portland on Friday, June 29.
Washington, a 45-year-old Navy veteran and postal worker, was carrying a friend's pistol in a holster when he became involved in a drunken brawl outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar, 1939 S.W. Sixth Avenue, around 1:30 a.m. Body-worn camera footage shows the handgun falling to the ground, and Washington bending over to pick up the object as the officers shout orders.
A blurry still frame provided by the District Attorney's office appears to show Washington extending his arm toward the officers while holding the gun.
For Dewey — a 33-year-old who served as a scout sniper while deployed in Afghanistan — the "chaotic and kinda ugly" scene prompted only one thought in his mind: "He's gonna start shooting people."
"I'm screaming, like, begging really for this guy to drop his gun," Dewey recounted. "Every time you give a command like 'drop the gun' and it doesn't happen.... it's an escalation, it's like a twisting of that knot in your stomach that this is getting much, much worse."
McKenzie, also a veteran who deployed twice to Iraq, agreed: "In my mind I'm like thinkin' I'm gonna be shot right there," he said later.
The duo were working without an on-duty supervisor and were about halfway through a 12-hour graveyard shift when they received a report from PSU Dispatch regarding an unwanted person at University Pointe, a 16-story apartment tower commonly known as UP.
With their other patrol vehicle in the shop, McKenzie drove a police SUV to the Campus Public Safety building, where Dewey was taking a break and eating a meal purchased from Plaid Pantry. But when they spotted about ten men fighting on the sidewalk they decided to respond to the higher-priority incident first.
Dewey, who teaches a firearms class as an adjunct at the state police academy, said it was "shocking" to see a gun in a holster in downtown Portland and that the sight caused him to experience "adrenalized tunnel vision" after they arrived.
Dewey said he would never instruct any of his students to openly carry in a crowded city. He said it escalated an otherwise routine situation.
"I probably would've just yelled at a couple guys and maybe given one a citation," he said.
After firing his Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun, Dewey said he checked Washington's pulse but found no signs of life. Responding officers from the Portland Police Bureau performed CPR while awaiting paramedics.
McKenzie will reportedly serve at a police agency not located in Portland after he accepted a job that he applied for before the shooting. McKenzie graduated from PSU with a political science degree in 2003, and Dewey is an enrolled economics student.
Also interviewed on tape by Deputy District Attorney Brian Davidson were Cheerful Tortoise regulars Mohamed Tuffa and Patrick Dean, doorman Donald Dietz, bartender Tyler Koenig and Keyaira Smith, who filmed the encounter on her cell phone, as well as a forensic scientist, a detective, Washington's friend who owned the gun, a state medical examiner and a PSU police department sergeant.
Neither Dewey nor McKenzie refer to Washington by his first or last name at any point in the 415-page transcript.