OREGON – Portland State University police shot and killed a man who was trying to break up a fight outside a sports bar early Friday, multiple witnesses told CNN affiliate KATU, sparking outrage and protests against the university’s armed police force.
Witnesses said the man, whom they identified as Jason Washington, was fatally shot by campus police after a fight at 1:30 a.m. Friday outside a local bar.
The Multnomah County, Oregon, Medical Examiner’s office also identified the deceased as Jason Washington. Portland police said in a statement there was an “officer-involved shooting” at that time outside the Cheerful Tortoise bar, but did not identify the person who was shot.
Witnesses told KATU that Washington was trying to break up a fight. During the scuffle, a gun fell out of his holster, witnesses told the news station, and when he reached for it, officers fired at him.
“From there it just kind of took a turn for the worst, and the good guy ended up getting shot,” Keyaira Smith, who filmed the shooting, told KATU.
In cellphone video obtained by KATU, officers can be heard shouting “drop the gun” several times and then firing their weapons.
Portland police said in a statement that officers and medical personnel responded to the scene, and “determined the subject was deceased.” No other officers or community members were injured in the incident, police said.
“The investigation is in its early stages and additional information will be released as the investigation continues and more information is learned,” Portland police said.
Zachary Walker, who said his friends were in the fight, said he didn’t feel Washington was a threat.
“I understand the guy has a gun, and you didn’t know, but still — we didn’t feel threatened with a guy with a gun,” Walker told KATU. “He was a cool guy and nothing was going to happen. We knew he had it, and nothing was going to happen that night.”
The two campus police officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Portland State University President Rahmat Shoureshi said in a statement.
The university identified the officers as Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey. McKenzie has been an officer with Portland State University Campus Police since 2002 and Dewey has been an officer with Portland State University since 2014.
“Campus safety is our top priority at PSU,” Shoureshi said. “As you know, we are an urban campus, and that presents challenges. We work hard to provide an environment at PSU that is safe and welcoming.”
Debate on arming campus police
The incident was the first officer-involved shooting at Portland State, according to Kenny Ma, Portland State Director of Media & Public Relations.
The university of 27,000 students only recently armed its campus police. The Portland State Board of Trustees approved an armed campus police force in December 2014, and trained officers were added six months later, Ma said.
The Portland State University Student Union said it protested the decision at the time, and on Sunday, the student group held a “#DisarmPSU” rally to push back against the need for campus officers to be armed.
“Everyone who has expressed dissent over the years to the armament of (Campus Public Safety Office) and creation of a police force knew that one day this decision would result in deadly violence, and we know that it will continue to happen so long as campus security remain a deputized and armed police force,” the group wrote on Facebook. “There’s no way around it — this is how policing works.”
The protest in Portland was attended by students, local residents and Washington’s family and friends. One sign read, “No more Police State University.”
“Say his name: Jason Washington,” the group of protesters chanted.
“His wife lost a husband, his three daughters lost a father, (and his) granddaughter lost a grandfather,” Andre Washington, the victim’s brother, told KATU. “I graduated from Portland State University and I am disgusted.”