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Inquest Jury Rules Homicide In Police Sleeper Hold Death

May 13, 1985

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ An inquest jury has ruled a homicide the death of a man who was subdued by police using a so-called sleeper hold, which induces unconsciousness, and the case now goes before a grand jury.

The panel’s decision came Saturday after three days of testimony in the death of Lloyd Stevenson, 31, who died April 21 after he was subdued by officers following a fight.

Jurors termed the death a result of criminally negligent homicide, the least severe of three categories of homicide in Oregon. The panel, whose verdict is not admissible in grand jury proceedings or in any civil or criminal trials, said Stevenson’s death was caused by the hold applied by Officer Gary Barbour and the failure of police to promptly resuscitate him.

The case has angered black leaders. Stevenson was black. Both police officers involved in the incident are white.

Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk convened the inqeust jury at the suggestion of Mayor Bud Clark, Police Chief Penny Harrington, and community groups. Schrunk said the case would be submitted to the grand jury within a week.

Since Stevenson’s death, Ms. Harrington has banned the carotid sleeper hold, which cuts off the flow of blood to the brain and is intended to knock out a person long enough for officers to handcuff him.

Barbour applied the hold to Stevenson when officers broke up a fight outside a store. Police had been called to the scene to arrest another man accused of shoplifting.

Police and city officials refused comment on the inquest jury’s decision, citing pending action by the grand jury.

In its formal verdict, the jury listed no basis for its finding.

One juror, Ida Hubbard, said the panel was most influenced ″by the fact that the man was not touched after he went to the ground; there were no lifesaving techniques properly administered at the scene.″

Ron Herndon, spokesman for the Black United Front in Portland, which had protested police actions in Stevenson’s death, called the verdict ″not an anti-police decision, but an anti-negligence decision.

″The fact that an all-white jury could come up with this verdict is very, very encouraging to me,″ he said.

Stevenson’s father, James Harvey, said, ″If you bring my son back, I’ll be happy.″ He and other family members declined further comment.

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