Motel hostage-taker fatally shot in bathroom by police
An armed man who barricaded himself and held his girlfriend hostage inside a Southeast Portland motel was killed by a single shot to the head fired by a police officer positioned about 20 yards away, according to new testimony.
Police responded to the Del Rancho Motel on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Flavel Street shortly after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11.
The shooting death of Samuel Edward Rice, 30, was determined to be a lawful act in defense of a third party by a grand jury convened by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office a month later.
In nearly 500 pages of jury proceedings, responding officers describe a "manic" hostage-taker, armed with a steak knife, who they thought might be high on methamphetamines due to his erratic behavior and threats to "cut off his own ears."
A toxicology report, however, found only evidence of cannabinoids in his blood.
The rapidly escalating standoff started in a nearby 7-Eleven after Rice's girlfriend got into a dispute with a customer about who was next in line. Rice intervened, pulling out his knife during the scuffle with customer Ronald Pearson Jr. in the chips aisle.
Pearson said he heard Rice say: "I'll gut you like a fish."
Rice and his girlfriend, Talon Tiara Ochoa, ran back to their motel room. Rice forced the door open because they had lost the key. Across the street, the 7-Eleven clerk dialed 911. So did Rice.
"I'm suing you for attempted murder of my fiancée," Rice told the emergency operator. "I'm going to fight back and it's going to kill me."
The transcripts of Rice's calls to 911 and with crisis negotiators are filled with nonsensical ramblings. At one point, Rice interjects "I've got the best and hottest boy voice in the world" then claims to have stabbed his genitals.
With police on the scene, Rice began to fortify his position using two mattresses and a nightstand. But before Rice hung up the phone for the final time, someone in uniform heard Rice demand that police back off or he would "cut her throat." That information was relayed over the police radio system.
The grand jury listened to several audio recordings, but only a written transcript was provided of the call containing the final threat.
"There was some difficulty that resulted in insufficient audio quality during the playback of one of the 911 calls," explained D.A. spokesman Brent Weisberg. "Only one or two officers actually heard Mr. Rice make that comment in person."
Officer Kelly VanBlokland heard the broadcast from intel officers about Rice's threat. The 25-year veteran and lead armorer for the Portland Police Bureau was positioned on the bed of a flat-bed truck in a parking lot south of the motel, armed with an AR-15.
VanBlokland described seeing a "stone-cold face" glaring at him through the bathroom window. He decided he was willing to use lethal force, but his radio was jammed with the chatter of other responders, preventing him from warning the other officers.
"He's staring at me and I'm staring at him. And I know that if I allow him to walk away from that window, he's going to go cut her throat," VanBlokland testified. "I knew that in that moment if I didn't take that opportunity, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night."
The bullet from VanBlokland's gun entered Rice's right eye socket and traveled through his skull, according to a deputy state medical examiner.
The situation unfolded differently for Ochoa, 30. After they both ran back into Room 16 of the Del Rancho, Ochoa decided to take a hot shower. She said Rice was opening the bathroom window to let out the steam when he was killed.
Ochoa met Rice at SL Start, a developmental disabilities service provider, where the couple had the same caseworker. They were living at the motel after being kicked out of an apartment near Eastport Plaza.
While testifying before the grand jury, Ochoa said she was trapped in the room, that she was afraid Rice was going to hurt her and that she heard him threaten to cut her throat.
"I was too afraid," she said. "I was shaking."