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A threat to kill a hostage forces a tough decision, in a confrontation with a man with mental issues

DAVID F. ASHTON - Just to the right of Portland Police Officer Jerry Higginbotham, a tense situation develops.   When two men started scuffling in the 7-Eleven store on the corner of S.E. Flavel Street at 82nd Avenue of Roses, the clerk was alarmed and called the 9-1-1 center for help. That was at about 8:45 a.m., on Wednesday, October 10.

According to witness accounts, one man – later identified as 30-year-old Samuel E. Rice – pulled out a knife and tried to stab the other man before leaving the store and running across the street to the Del Rancho Motel, at 7622 S.E. 82nd Avenue.

More Portland Police Bureau (PPB) officers meantime were sent to another call – this one at that motel – at 9:11 a.m., in response to what was reported to be a potentially violent domestic disturbance.

Arriving officers learned that Rice was in a room at the motel, and was holding a woman hostage with a knife. "As officers attempted to contact the suspect, the suspect threatened the life of the woman inside the motel room," recounted PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Chris Burley.

The Bureau's Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) and Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) were activated, and came to the scene. S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses was shut down to traffic as 28 police units rolled in.

Room by room, officers escorted other motel guests to safety, while the SERT officers set up around the building.

At some point in the negotiation with Rice, whom witnesses told reporters continued to threaten the life of the woman held hostage, a SERT officer fired at the suspect, dropping him to the ground.

With the hostage thus safely freed, and throughout the day, PPB Homicide Detectives, assisted by the East County Major Crimes Team – and later, representatives of the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office – investigated the incident.

"The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office determined that Rice died of a gunshot wound," Burley later confirmed.

"Investigators have learned the Police Bureau had previously contacted Rice multiple times, and recently the Police Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit attempted to link Rice and his girlfriend to services," Burley said. "Officers have transported Rice to area hospitals on multiple occasions in the past for treatment of perceived mental illness.

"Although Rice had refused the Behavioral Health Unit's assistance, the officers did at the time provide Rice's care providers with information about his recent behavior," Burley reported.

As the investigation continues, the officer who fired the shot at the hostage-taker has been placed on paid administrative leave, as is standard procedure, until the conclusion of the investigation.

The incident is expected to be reviewed by a Grand Jury, tentatively scheduled to meet in mid to late November.

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