Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday he agreed with Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw "that the mental health system failed" Koben Henriksen, who was shot and killed by Portland police on Dec. 8.
In a statement Thursday, Outlaw wondered where is the "level of accountability throughout the mental health system" that leaves police "in an impossible position."
Henriksen, 51, had recent encounters with Portland police that ended without any use of force. Officers diffused those situations and got him to a mental health facility for treatment. In those encounters, he threatened police and "needed someone to kill him" and "thought police officers were the best option."
During a Dec. 13 press conference, Wheeler said, "By the time, shots were fired on Sunday there were already multiple system failures, in my opinion," Wheeler said. "I feel quite strongly that the mental health system failed Mr. Henriksen. I agree with Chief Outlaw on this point."
Afterward, Multnomah County issued a statement which said, "It is a tragedy anytime anyone in crisis dies in our community. Every one of us has people we know who struggle with mental health challenges. Multnomah County will wait for the official review on the death of Koben Henriksen to bear out the facts. Ultimately, anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should not have to face a violent death at the hands of law enforcement. The County is actively working to provide other options locally for these situations because even if our mental health system were fully-funded, people are still going to experience crisis in public. We can, and we must, do better."
During his press conference, Wheeler also said no one has all the facts in this case yet and asked the public for patience.
"While I understand the need for the public to have information as quickly as possible, it's critically important that this process be able to unfold in a thoughtful and thorough manner," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also said there is an obligation for a thorough and complete report that will be made public as soon as possible.
While Wheeler said he doesn't have direct control over the mental health system, he has a voice and will use it.
"I've already met with the Behavioral Health Director Steven Allen from the Oregon Health Authority and Ebony Clark, who is the interim director of the Multnomah County Mental Health and Addiction Services to offer whatever I can offer to assist in their sincere efforts and strengthen our mental health system."
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.
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