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Four City Council candidates object to negligence defense in police shooting case

CONTRIBUTED - Quanice HayesMayor Ted Wheeler's office responded Friday morning to criticisms of the City Attorney Office's legal defense in the federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Quanice Hayes, a 17-year-old African-American killed by police in February 2017.

Among other things, the city attorney is arguing that Hayes and his mother were negligent in his death. Four candidates for City Council wrote Wheeler and the other commissioners on Thursday urging them to prevent the city attorney from continuing to make that argument.

"The ugly history of state-sponsored racism, discrimination, and violence against communities of color in this city can't be erased, but we can start doing better today," read the letter signed by mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone and city commissioner candidates Carmen Rubio, Loretta Smith and Sam Adams.

Wheeler spokesman Tim Becker did not respond directly to the criticism, but told the Portland Tribune, "We cannot comment on pending litigation. Our office will follow up with the city attorney to learn more about the circumstances mentioned in the letter."

Police stopped Hayes because they were looking for an armed robbery suspect who matched his description. He was shot and killed by an officer who believed he was reaching for a gun. A toy gun that looked like the one used in an earlier robbery attempt was found near his body.

The family sued the city and officer who killed Hayes in February 2018. In its defense filings, the city argued Hayes and his mother engaged in negligent acts that should have been foreseen to leading to his death. Haynes was not living at home and was taking drugs at the time of his death, the city noted.

"The City Attorney was not elected by the voters of Portland — you were. You all are empowered to stop this attack on a mother who is still, and always will be, mourning the tragic loss of her son," the letter from the candidates said.

Lawyers representing Hayes' family asked the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit to strike negligence arguments from its defense.

You can read the letter here.

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