A Hillsboro police officer was justified in shooting and wounding a 29-year-old man armed with a utility knife in the fall, the Washington County District Attorney's Office determined.
Officer David Bergstrom fired two rounds from his duty weapon, striking Gilberto Perez who did not respond to police commands to drop the weapon, Chief Deputy District Attorney Roger Hanlon wrote in a letter last month to Hillsboro Police Deputy Chief Mark Bonnett. The decision comes more than seven months after the November shooting occurred in a Hillsboro apartment complex.
Perez, who was struck twice by the gunshots, remained in the hospital for three weeks before he was lodged in the Washington County Jail on assault charges. He pleaded guilty in May to second-degree and fourth-degree assault and agreed in a plea deal to serve seven and a half years in prison.
During a telephone interview Monday, Hanlon said it is best to review an officer-involved shooting after an associated criminal case has resolved because more details can emerge before or during a trial.
"Sometimes new information comes to light," he said. "It's just best to wait."
Hanlon prosecuted the case against Perez and reviewed the officer-involved shooting investigation, conducted by a sheriff's office detective and member of the Washington County Major Crimes Team.
In his June 27 letter, Hanlon wrote that Hillsboro Officer Brian Wilber, who used a Taser on Perez, was also justified in his use of force.
"...Officers Bergstrom and Wilber were legally justified under Oregon criminal statutes in their use of force in subduing and arresting Mr. Perez," Hanlon wrote. "Their actions were reasonable under the circumstances. There is no reason to believe that the officers committed a crime, therefore a grand jury review of the case is not warranted."
The night of the Nov. 8 shooting, Perez, who was intoxicated, had punched his pregnant girlfriend, Isabella Phillips, breaking her nose, the letter says. He also punched Phillips' mother, Kimberly Arellano-Roque, in the face and abdomen. He pushed Arellano-Roque down some stairs, according to the letter, and threatened to stab her. Arellano-Roque had attempted to stop the attack on her daughter.
A man, who was at a neighboring residence, came to help Arellano-Roque after he heard yelling. Perez reportedly stabbed him in the thigh with a utility knife outside the apartment.
Perez went back inside the unit and continued to beat Phillips, the letter says. Perez reportedly told his girlfriend he "was going to get a knife and stab somebody." Phillips grabbed her 2-year-old son and ran from the apartment. Her mother was also outside.
Police responded to the apartment, in the 2000 block of Northeast Barberry Drive, shortly before 11:30 p.m. When officers arrived, Arellano-Roque told police Perez was inside the apartment along with her 10-year-old daughter.
Hillsboro officers Bergstrom and Wilber and Detective Kimberly Jones entered the apartment. Perez was outside on a balcony, across the living room from the cops. With both hands, he held a knife, its blade pointed under his chin, according to the letter.
The 10-year-old reportedly was asleep on a couch.
Officers yelled commands for Perez to drop the knife. The yelling awoke the girl.
Perez, according to the letter, did not drop the knife. He opened the glass sliding door from the balcony. He "moved quickly toward the officers."
The knife, the letter says, was "still raised in front of him." Hanlon said he wasn't sure if the knife was remained pointed to Perez's chin or if he pointed the blade at the officers.
Wilber fired his Taser, striking Perez in the torso, and Bergstrom twice fired his gun, striking Perez in his abdomen and left arm. Jones evacuated the 10-year-old from the apartment.
During the incident, the girl was behind the officers who drew their weapons and not in their line of fire, Hanlon said. She was evacuated at about the same time as the shooting, he said.
Wilber fired his Taser around the same time that Bergstrom shot his gun, Hanlon said. The two actions, he said, were "contemporaneous."
After the incident in November, Hillsboro police said Wilber had deployed his Taser, but it was ineffective. The agency said Bergstrom then fired his gun. Perez, police said, was about 15 feet from the officers when they started yelling commands.
Lt. Mike Rouches, a Hillsboro police spokesman, said on Tuesday that Wilber fired the Taser first. He said the weapon did not stop Perez, who continued to advance. Rouches said within about two seconds, Bergstrom fired his handgun.
Copyright 2013 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service