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Grand Jury Votes Not to Indict Officers in ‘Sleeper Hold’ Death

May 23, 1985

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ A grand jury on Wednesday decided against indicting two white police officers in the death of an off-duty black security guard who was subdued through use of a ″sleeper hold.″

A six-member multiracial grand jury unanimously ″failed to return criminal indictments against anyone following its investigation into the April 21 death of Lloyd D. Stevenson Jr.,″ said Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk.

Stevenson, 31, died at a hospital after Officer Gary Barbour used the hold to cut off blood to his brain during a scuffle in a store parking lot. The hold is used to cause a suspect to faint long enough to apply handcuffs.

Portland’s black community staged protests after the death.

Barbour’s partner, Bruce Pantley, testified at a hearing that police confronted Stevenson because he was involved in a fight outside a convenience store. Some witnesses testified that Stevenson was helping control a crowd that had gathered after a shoplifting incident.

A special inquest panel issued a non-binding ruling May 11 that Stevenson was the victim of negligent homicide.

Schrunk said the grand jury decision ends any further criminal investigation by his office in a case that has increased racial tensions and eroded police morale.

The district attorney said that for the grand jury to issue an indictment, it would have had to find evidence that showed ″beyond a reasonable doubt″ that Stevenson was a homicide victim. The inquest panel had only to consider ″a preponderance of the evidence,″ Schrunk said.

The grand jury considered evidence brought before the public inquest jury and listened to 41 witnesses, Schrunk said.

Police Chief Penny Harrington banned police use of the hold after Stevenson’s death, pending an investigation into police use of force by a citizens’ panel.

Stevenson’s family has filed a $15 million lawsuit against the city that includes allegations of racism against Barbour and Pantley.

A spokesman for the Black United Front said he would be ″the last person to predict there would be any trouble″ when the black community learned of the grand jury decision.

But spokesman Ron Herndon added that ″certainly there are going to be a lot of people angry.″

Herndon said Schrunk ignored the county medical examiner’s conclusion that police did not begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Stevenson soon enough.

″I think it was very obvious that the district attorney displayed a police version of the death″ to the grand jury, Herndon said.

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