Note: This article contains descriptions of self-harm.
An apparent suicide during a police standoff happened months after family members told authorities the man suffered from delusions and was "having a mental break," court records show.
The demise of Tai Anh Tran is now under internal investigation by the Portland Police Bureau and the city's Independent Police Review agency, the Tribune has confirmed.
Tran, a longtime Southeast Portlander who was born in Vietnam, died sometime after midnight March 31 after a police pursuit ended with the 46-year-old surrounded by cops in a dead-end parking lot near Southeast 122nd Avenue and Mill Street, police say.
Jason Renaud, co-founder of the Mental Health Association of Portland, has tracked at least 24 police-involved suicides in the metro area since the mid-1980s. In many cases, Renaud says, the decision to die is an impulsive one exacerbated by law enforcement tactics.
"These are often people who have a mental illness. They haven't been through treatment and therapy and don't have the skills to manage it," he said. "The goal is to help police recognize that this isn't a good look for them."
The reportedly self-inflicted death occurred just days before the U.S. Justice Department warned City Hall that Portland is not in compliance with the settlement agreement from a 2019 federal probe, which determined that local officers were using excessive force against the mentally ill, according to the Oregonian.
Tran's death is under review by Detectives Rico Beniga and Scott Broughton, a police spokesman told the Tribune. It's also subject to a separate administrative investigation by the bureau's Internal Affairs unit.
That's because Tran is legally considered to have died while in "constructive custody."
"He hadn't been arrested or anything like that, but he was fairly well boxed in, so that's why it's being investigated as an in-custody death," said Independent Police Review director Ross Caldwell. "It's a horribly sad thing."
Caldwell says Independent Police Review will be presented with both completed reports in order to give a final "stamp of approval," though the exact timeline for the lengthy review process is unknown.
Police have not officially identified Tran but described him as a suspect in a non-fatal injury shooting in the 300 block of Northeast 131st Place that sent one person to the hospital around 10:10 p.m. on March 30.
Police quickly linked a license plate to the incident and say they tracked the vehicle to Southeast 143rd Avenue and Stark Street around 10:38 p.m., when Tran allegedly sped off before being trapped. Officers say they could see Tran holding a handgun, and deployed a SWAT team and crisis negotiators.
After a period of communication, police say they heard a single shot ring out. Police fired tear gas at the car around 4 a.m. in an attempt to spur a response from Tran, but say he already had taken his own life at that point.
At the time of his death, Tran faced pending charges for ramming a car in September 2020 that was occupied by his brother-in-law and sister, who told authorities Tran was suffering from mental illness, per court records.
Help is available:
If you're struggling with thoughts of suicide or other mental health issues, you are not alone.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7 crisis support by text. Text 741741 to be connected to a trained counselor.
The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at 503-988-4888.
Follow me on Twitter
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.