An official for the Department of Homeland Security will launch a second investigation into federal officers' strong-arm tactics against local protesters.
The feds already were under the magnifying glass for use of force after a protester was shot in the head by an impact munition. Donavan LaBella, 26, had kicked away a flashbang fired by officers guarding the federal courthouse when he was hit and seriously wounded by another impact munition on July 11.
Now, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Billy J. Williams will refer a second investigation to DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari.
The second probe will seek to shine light on reports that federal police in unmarked cars have whisked away protesters and detained them for hours — without probable cause.
Williams was hardly contrite, however. He admitted only to "limited instances" of questionable conduct, a far cry from the widespread condemnation by local Democrat leaders.
"The overarching goal of law enforcement is public protection and, during tense and dangerous situations, de-escalation," Williams said. "They have endeavored to find the individuals within the crowd who are committing these violent acts and arrest them in a manner that is safe for both the officers and nearby nonviolent protesters."
The investigation, announced just before 1 p.m. Friday, didn't satisfy Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, who broke news of her own investigation and a lawsuit to stop all arrests by federal officers hours later.
The use of unmarked cars, reportedly rented from Enterprise, has spurred alarm on a national scale. Marked federal police cars have long been stationed in Portland, and frequently appear at protests near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in the city's southwest quarter.
On July 17, Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli confirmed to NPR that federal police have detained and questioned Portland protesters. Without referencing him by name, Cuccinelli said the widely reported snatching of protester Mark Pettibone likely happened because officers confused him with a different rallygoer.
"We're seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction," he told NPR. "This is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we're responsible for around the country."
Democratic politicos including Mayor Ted Wheeler, Gov. Kate Brown, both of Oregon's U.S. senators and many other elected leaders have condemned the tactics, calling them an overt ploy to boost the president's poll numbers.
Not everyone is displeased.
Oregon state Senate Republican leader Fred Girod, of Stayton, has blamed Brown for "allowing violent rioters to run the show."
"Federal law enforcement have been forced to step in and do what they can to disperse the anarchist riots in Portland after failed leadership by the governor," he said. "The governor's political posturing has been expensive, as communities across the state have accrued damages to public places and businesses."
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