(Updated) Jury Of Inquest: Day One Wrap-Up

Officer Forgot He Had A Partner, Expert Dodges Issue Of Racial Bias

Note: This post has been updated. Any and all updates appear at the end of the original post.

Officer Sean Macomber and Doctor William Lewinski provided the most important elements of today's testimony before the jury of inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of James Jahar Perez.

For us, Macomber's testimony opens up two particular avenue of exploration, beginning with his description of the events as they transpired from the moment he and Officer Jason Sery arrived at the scene until the moment Sery fired three shots into Perez.

Macomber's fairly detailed sequence of eventsincluded a certain amount of verbal communication between himself and Perez, movement of Macmober towards the vehicle, movement of Perez inside the vehicle, the rolling up of the dirver's side power window, the opening up of the door by Macomber, more movement by Perez, more verbal exchanges, silences, and eventually the shots fire by Sery.

All of which cries out for re-enactment because it's very difficult to see how everything he described could occur within the previously-reported (and reported again during testimony) twenty-four seconds between the radio call indicating the traffic stop and the radio call indicating that shots had been fired.

But for us the striking element of Macomber's testimony was his indication that his responses to the situation were informed (or dictated) by a combination of two things: His "fight or flight" instincts, and the fact that he normally works without a partner and so, in essence, forgot that Sery was even present.

Each of these points the finger directly at the quality of training for officers of the Portland Police Bureau, especially the latter of the two.

There should not be a single officer on the streets of Portland who does not know how to adjust his responses and his internal knowledge of possible decisions based upon whether he is out on his own or whether he has a partner.

That in his testimony Macomber in essence said that he forgot Sery was with him at the time is unequivocably unacceptable. If this particular issue is not raised during any considerations of Police Bureau training procedures, it will be completely inexcusable.

And then we have the testimony of expert witness Lewinski. Permitted to take the court thorugh a fairly length description of research into the matter of "action and reaction" as it pertains to law enforcement officers in potentially-deadly situations, he was eventually pressed by Distict Attorney Schrunk -- who, actually, was reading a question from Senators Avel Gordly and Margaret Carter -- to discuss whether or not research indicates that white officers react differently to African-American subjects.

Lewinski testified that he did not know of any research specifically addressing that question, but did say that some research on that issue had been done with civilians, who did demonstrate a slightly higher tendency to view people of color with more suspicion in such situations.

He went out of his way to stress that this research involved civilians -- and his tone suggested not only that we simply didn't have the data when it came to police, but that it woud surely be a different matter.

We make that last statement about tone because it happens to be backed up by his later testimony that what officers are truly concerned with, and what causes their fear in such circumstances, is the possibility of losing control of the situation.

But he was pressed, more than once, to offer a sense as to whether or not a white officer's views of people of color could influence his perception of losing such control, or his perception of danger.

Lewinski steadfastly persisted in dodging this question, despite it being a critically important matter to consider, and an entirely reasonable issue to raise.

Rather he simply kept focusing on an officer's fear of losing control over a situation, and pushed ahead with his refusal to even consider that racial bias could have an effect on that officer's perception of danger.

April 28, 2004

Update

It's become extraordinarily clear to us, having had some hours to process today's portion of the inquest, that we need to get the focus off of Officer Jason Sery. While he is the one who fired the shots that killed James Jahar Perez, up until that point the situation was all about Officer Sean Macomber and Perez.

Macomber is the absolute key to this incident, and we need to switch our focus to him, his actions, and his training.

April 28, 2004

Update

OregonLive has archived the various segments of today's testimony in audio form, should anyone want to compare my characterizations of Macomber's and Lewinski's testimony to what they said and thereby discover that I am correct.

twenty Comments

  1. Laughing Says:

    Nice job putting your one-sided slant on the testimony. Funny how you say, "in essence" Macomber forgot he had a partner. If I remember correctly, he said he couldn't be sure where his partner was and what his partner was doing while he was dealing with Perez. I guess I'm not surprised, though. Let's put it this way...I don't read this web site and sites like it for the truth. I look at it as more of entertainment. It's funny to see how people with no sense of reality think.

  2. The One True b!X Says:

    Funny how your recollection matches your own biases, especially since your recollection is wrong. Macomber specifically communicated in testimony that he was used to not having a partner and so he was not acting as if he had one available to him.

  3. Jack Bog Says:

    Whose idea was it to bring Lewinski to Portland? He testifies on behalf of officers who have killed unarmed civilians all over the country. Is the DA also planning to bring in a learned expert who disagrees with Lewinski's opinion?

    How is Lewinski's testimony relevant to the limited questions that were supposed to be answered by the jury of inquest?

  4. Laughing Says:

    "Funny how your recollection matches your own biases, especially since your recollection is wrong. Macomber specifically communicated in testimony that he was used to not having a partner and so he was not acting as if he had one available to him."

    Whatever...You're going to spin it to match your agenda no matter what anyone says. It's impossible to convince close minded lefties like yourself that little angels like Perez would still be alive had he just done what he was told and not been digging in his pockets when dealing with police

  5. myrln Says:

    May you never be stopped on a street by an itchy-fingered cop. But of course, that would never happen to you...would it?

  6. no one in particular Says:

    It's impossible to convince close minded lefties like yourself that little angels like Perez would still be alive had he just done what he was told and not been digging in his pockets when dealing with police

    I believe that Perez would still be alive had he kept his hands in the air the whole time. But that's not even the point in question! He would still be alive if he'd stayed home and hid under his bed, too, but that is similarly irrelevant.

    The question is: Did Perez have to die? If certain procedures, beliefs, or training were in place, would his death have been prevented?

    If we follow your line of reasoning to the extreme: Are the cops justified in shooting anyone who puts their hands in their pockets while being pulled over?

  7. The One True b!X Says:

    You're going to spin it to match your agenda no matter what anyone says. It's impossible to convince close minded lefties like yourself...

    As opposed to knee-jerk righties such as yourself who when faced with clear evidnece that they are wrong simply cast unfounded aspirsions against those with whom you disagree?

    I didn't spin, I reported what Macomber said about how he acted. Perhaps you should consider a job in the Bush Administration if the facts don't suit your worldview.

  8. Laughing Says:

    The only thing clear to me is that Perez chose his fate and it was %100 justified. That's why Sery was cleared by a grand jury made up of members of the community.

    Like I said, spin it how you're gonna spin it. I listened to the entire testimony. Macomber never said he forgot Sery was there. He did say he was used to working alone and he said that he didn't think of yelling for Sery while he was engaged with Perez. I don't know if you've ever been in a situation where you lose sight of anything going on around you and you completely focus on, in this case, a threat. It's completely normal and has nothing to do with training.

    So, you keep spinning and I'll keep reading and being entertained.

  9. The One True b!X Says:

    He was acting as if he had to handle the situation entirely on his own, which he didn't. He was acting based upon his tendency to work alone, which he wasn't. This has everything to do with training. Police are meant to be trained to know their surroundings, know what's available to them and what isn't, and have their reactions kick in accordingly. Macomber failed on these counts and frankly I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that it's because his training failed him, rather than him simply being a bad cop.

  10. brett Says:

    > Perhaps you should consider a job in the Bush Administration if the facts don't suit your worldview.

    Talk about knee-jerk. Why would you automatically associate an asshole like this poster with Bush? That's pretty goddamn offensive. There are plenty of Bush supporters, myself included, who are horrified at this shooting and want to see the truth come out. Don't lower yourself to his level.

  11. The One True b!X Says:

    I was speaking to the poster's desire to stick to this opinion and beliefs even in the face of contradictory facts -- something of a hallmark of the Bush Administration.

  12. brett Says:

    bix, I respect you and what you're doing here immensely, but the fact that you would automatically link someone's intemperate defense of what appears to be an unjustified police shooting with the Bush adminstration speaks volumes about the attitude of the left, especially here in Portland. Not everything that's wrong with this world is George Bush's fault. There is a complete lack of respect and tolerance for dissenting political views that would be merely ironic if it weren't so destructive. There is no tolerance in this town for anyone who is to the right of Lenin. Dissent, here, means being a Republican. [Which I am not, by the way.] Liberals profess to be tolerant - and indeed they are, of every kind of difference except the political. It took several disastrous elections for the right to realize that its loathing for Clinton was counterproductive. I hope it doesn't take the same for the right to realize the same about Bush.

  13. brett Says:

    Make that "the right to realize the same about Bush."

  14. brett Says:

    Aah! Left, goddamit, left. I don't want to hear about any Freudian slips, either.

  15. The One True b!X Says:

    but the fact that you would automatically link someone's intemperate defense of what appears to be an unjustified police shooting with the Bush adminstration speaks volumes about the attitude of the left, especially here in Portland. Not everything that's wrong with this world is George Bush's fault.

    It would be nice if you would read what I actually said to the poster in question, rather than going off half-ckocked and misrepresenting me. I didn't link the police shooting to the Bush Administration. I linked that poster's inability to change his opinion when faced with the actual facts to the same habit exhibited by the Bush Administration. I would have said the same thing about the poster if he had claimed that pigs could fly, despite the fact that the evidence is clear that they do not.

    The link I was making had nothign to do with the shooting itself, but with the poster's insistence on sticking to what he "believe" even when faced with facts that say what he believes is wrong. It doesn't matter what the subject matter is -- a police shooting or flying pigs. What matters is that this behavior of ignoring facts that contradict one's beliefs is moronic and is unfortunately being exhibited at the top of the political leadership in this country at the moment.

    That was the link -- belief over facts -- that I was making. I made no accusations that people who defend police shootings much be Bush supporters.

  16. brett Says:

    Say what you want, but the link you drew was quite explicit. Please don't make this another Bu$Hitler, No Blood for Oil, Cheney=Halliburton=Profiteers site. It's too good for that kind of bullshit. You consistently display judgment and independence in your analysis of Portland politics - please don't adopt the kneejerk attitudes of A.N.S.W.E.R. on national politics.

  17. The One True b!X Says:

    Oh good grief. Here's the exchange:

    Poster: You're going to spin it to match your agenda no matter what anyone says. It's impossible to convince close minded lefties like yourself...

    Me: As opposed to knee-jerk righties such as yourself who when faced with clear evidnece that they are wrong simply cast unfounded aspirsions against those with whom you disagree? I didn't spin, I reported what Macomber said about how he acted. Perhaps you should consider a job in the Bush Administration if the facts don't suit your worldview.

    That's the link. Despite the fact that I correctly reported what Macomber said, this poster steadfastly refused to believe that he said what I said he said. In other words, despite being faced with evidence the the contrary, he stuck to his beliefs.

    Yes, the Bush Administration has the same tendency to stick to their beliefs regardless of the evidence to the contrary. Hence, I made the link.

    But since we're on the subject (which you raised) of being intolerant of dissent, please check the glass house you inhabit and notice that I make a single glancing criticism of the Administration's faith-over- facts tendencies and you try to insinuate I'm a "Bush = Hitler" type.

    Not to belabor this, but that's another tendency of Bush backers. They accuse people who make a small criticism of the President as being morally equivalent to eithe traitors (at the worst, which you did not do) or whackjobs (at the least, which you did do).

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    Next.

  18. brett Says:

    Easy, tiger. No reason to go for the jugular. It's just disappointing to me that you would so easily draw that link, which is completely unjustified and gratuitous. It's a cheap shot at Bush.

  19. The One True b!X Says:

    Actually, it was a cheap shot at the poster in question.

  20. myrln Says:

    Actually, I think it was a pretty good shot at the poster. What's unfortunate at all, is that it takes attention away from the elemental fact: that some idiot out there has no interest in reining in trigger-happy police, to the detriment of all, especially those police who do their jobs well.

On This Day...

  1. ...In 2005:

    It's Official: Portland Leaving JTTF, To Attendees Of May 14 City Club Salon With 'Oregonian' Editorial Page Editor, Debunking Today's 'Oregonian' JTTF Coverage

  2. ...In 2003:

    Slight Hawash Clarification, Suspicions of Neighbors Launched Investigation Into Mike Hawash, More Evidence a 'Young Creatives' Conference Is Needed, Hawash Charged with 'Conspiring to Provide Material Support'

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