PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon grand jury on Thursday cleared two Portland State University campus safety officers in the fatal shooting of a legally armed black man outside a bar in a case that has focused attention on whether campus officers should be carrying weapons.
The grand jury deliberated for two days before finding that PSU officers James Dewey and Shawn McKenzie should not face criminal charges in the June 29 incident, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said.
The death of Jason Washington, a 45-year-old Navy veteran, father of three and grandfather, prompted protests against PSU’s 2014 decision to arm its campus security officers despite concerns raised by students.
Washington’s widow, Michelle Washington, said in a statement that her family was disappointed and would consult their private attorney on possible next steps.
“We want those responsible for the death of my husband to be held accountable,” she said. “We will always remember and love Jason and know he was needlessly killed while attempting to keep the peace.”
Portland State University’s president said he had hired two independent firms, one to examine the school’s policy of arming campus police and another to conduct its own investigation into the shooting.
“Mr. Washington’s death has deeply shaken all those involved as well as the greater campus community, and we are determined to learn from it,” said PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi.
“My hope is that our actions following this tragedy will help make our campus and community a safer place for years to come.”
Shoureshi invited students and community members to attend an Oct. 4 trustees meeting, and the PSU Student Union said its members would be there in force. They are also planning a rally later this month.
“It is evident to us he was a victim of racial profiling from PSU police. This is why we do not, and have never wanted armed police officers on PSU’s campus,” the student union posted on their Twitter account.
Cellphone video shot by a witness shows Washington repeatedly trying to restrain a friend as a group of other men follow them down a sidewalk. It seems as if Washington is about to succeed in getting his friend inside and away from a fight when the friend breaks away and swings at someone and is knocked to the ground.
Washington enters the fray and is also knocked down. As he falls, a black object can be seen in his hip pocket. The camera jerks away from the action shortly after the fall and doesn’t show the shooting, but someone can be heard shouting, “Gun!”
Witness Keyaira Smith, who shot the video, told several news outlets at the time that the object was a gun. Washington was shot as he was trying to retrieve it from the sidewalk, she has said.
Washington had a valid license to carry a concealed weapon in Multnomah County, which includes Portland. He was an employee of the U.S. Postal Service.
Prosecutors declined to comment further on the grand jury decision.
Under state law, the transcript from the grand jury hearing can be released after 10 days unless Dewey and McKenzie make a successful motion for a protective order to seal all or part of the document.
The Portland Police Bureau, which handled the investigation, did not immediately respond Thursday to a public records request for the police report.
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