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Video: Portland Police Use Taser on Armed Suspect

Portland police said they fired multiple Taser shots at a 47-year-old man who was spotted shoplifting and then grabbed knives from a display rack in an aisle of the Whole Foods Store in the Pearl District early Friday.

A witness videotaped part of the encounter and posted it on YouTube. Police released it Monday.

Officers can be heard yelling, "Drop the knife! Get down on your knees!"

In a news release, Portland police said a sergeant recognized the man armed with the knives as the subject of earlier calls who suffers from a mental illness.

The sergeant fired his Taser at him after he refused commands to drop the knives. The man, according to police, dropped to the ground and dropped the knives.

As officers were trying to get control of the man, police said he rolled around on the ground and continued to struggle with officers. Because the man was "swatting and grabbing at the Taser probes and putting his hands underneath his body," police said officers fired three more Taser stun gun cycles "to safely gain control of the man and put him into handcuffs."

The video catches the officers yelling, "Stop resisting or you'll be Tased again."

The encounter comes in the wake of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation last year that found Portland police engage in excessive and unjustified use of Tasers against people with mental illness. The department found a pattern of officers firing multiple cycles of Taser shocks unnecessarily, and failing to wait between cycles to allow a suspect to comply with commands.

During Friday's struggle, the man suffered a bloody nose. Medical workers responded, checked his injury and then allowed police to take him to a local hospital on a mental health hold. The man, identified by police as Stephen Shaw Scates, was cited for menacing and second-degree disorderly conduct before he was taken for a mental health evaluation.

While walking Scates out to a waiting patrol car, he again briefly struggled with officers before being placed into the car, police said.

Store employees told police that they had witnessed Scates shoplifting before he grabbed knives from a display rack and refused their requests that he leave the store.

The sergeant who responded recognized the 47-year-old suspect from earlier contacts, knew his name and knew that he had "significant mental health issues," police said in a statement. During a contact on July 13 at Northwest Yeon and Kittridge, the man wore a tactical vest and had a replica firearm in a shoulder holster, police said.

"While some officers took a position behind the man at the end of the aisle to prevent any customers or employees from encountering the man, other officers and the sergeant began addressing him from the other side of the aisle," police said.

Concerned for the safety of customers and for man himself, officers told the man several times that he may be Tased if he did not drop the knives.

The bureau's new Behavioral Health Unit will do follow-up with Scates, police said.

Police did not call out one of their new Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officers who have received added training on how to respond to police in mental health crisis, Sgt. Pete Simpson said. That was because the call came out as a "transient armed with knives" threatening people inside the store, he said.

"Once they engaged the man, they recognized him as someone they knew with mental health issues and spoke to him accordingly," Simpson said.

"As in all police uses-of-force, the incident will be thoroughly reviewed and investigated to ensure that Portland Police Bureau policies and procedures were followed," the police news release said.

Police Chief Mike Reese drafted a revised policy on Taser use last fall that does not restrict the number of stun gun cycles an officer may fire at a single person, as federal authorities had urged. But it said, "Members should evaluate their force options and give strong consideration to other force options, if the Taser is not effective after two" cycles on the same person.

Officers must give a warning before using a Taser, unless it would put someone at risk. It also says officers should consider a person's current mental health condition as a factor in deciding whether to use a Taser.

Training on the revised policy was halted early this year after objections from the police union.

Copyright 2013 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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