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Pendleton police chief would rather release names involved in shooting

Shooting happened Nov. 29; Walmart theft investigation continues
Phil Wright

East Oregonian

Published on December 11, 2017 5:46PM

Crime-scene tape wraps around a light pole on the corner of Southwest Court Avenue and 20th Street near the scene of an officer involved shooting on Nov. 29 in Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Crime-scene tape wraps around a light pole on the corner of Southwest Court Avenue and 20th Street near the scene of an officer involved shooting on Nov. 29 in Pendleton.

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Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said if he had his way, he would release the identities of the suspect and officers involved in the Nov. 29 police shooting.

Two Pendleton police were involved that night with chasing down a theft suspect from the Walmart, according to Roberts, before one officer opened fire after seeing what police described as “a dark colored pistol.”

Roberts said he would prefer to release the names of everyone involved, but the “standard operating procedure” nationwide in police shootings is to keep information from the public. Getting to this point probably involved plenty of lawyers and case law, he said, but the standard does not square with how police agencies claim to operate in a transparent manner.

The circumstances make it look like police are trying to hide something, he said, when that is not the case. Police and district attorney offices often protect identities of officers involved in shootings for the sake of the investigation and not to compromise grand juries that review cases.

“I get all that,” Roberts said, “but at the end of the day, the identities should not have an impact on determinations.”

The officers remain on leave and the suspect at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland. The chief said the two officers passed mandatory and volunteer psychological evaluations in the wake of the shooting. One is due to return to work soon, but the officer who fired his gun is off duty until the Baker County District Attorney’s Office completes its investigation of the shooting.

Umatilla County District Attorney handed off the case due to a conflict of interest. Roberts said he heard it could be two weeks before Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff wraps up the work. By then, the officer will be off work almost a month.

The shooting investigation, however, is not interfering with the investigation of the Walmart theft case. Roberts said police preserved video evidence from the store and questioned employees, and the case involves two or three others aside from the shooting victim.



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