Written on 5/28/2015
Prologue – It is difficult to explain to a lay person, but at night while my wife is asleep, I see dead people. My more peaceful dreams take place only after the mental exhaustion that comes after experiencing nightly collages of crime scenes, diagrams, photographs and weapons. I hear the chaotic, panicked 9-1-1 calls of victims and sometimes officers pleading for assistance. Sometimes, the odors of death surround me to a point where I honestly feel that I can’t breathe. Surveillance videos of in-progress crimes and officer-involved shootings including my own transit the ceiling of my bedroom as I gaze upwards while my wife sleeps peacefully next to me. Bloody bodies with lifeless eyes stare back at me; waiting for me to speak for them. “Follow the evidence. It’s all about the evidence. Find the truth,” they whisper to me.
On the morning of June 30, 2011 in the city of Portland, OR, 15 year veteran Officer Dane Reister of the Portland Police Bureau responded to a suspicious person disturbance call involving a man armed with a knife disturbing and harassing children in the Lair Hill Park area. The subject identified as William Kyle Monroe was reported by witnesses to possibly be under the influence of drugs or mentally disturbed and acting in a “very intimidating fashion.”
Upon arriving at the scene, Officer Reister who had been trained in Crisis Intervention and another officer encountered Monroe and attempted to quietly converse with him to seek his compliance with detention. In response, Monroe clenched his fists in a threatening manner, took a combative stance and angrily yelled at the officers that he was not going to comply. Officer Reister observed that Monroe had a knife clenched in his right hand which he then concealed behind his thigh.
In response to Monroe’s armed threat, Officer Reister retrieved his less lethal 12 gauge shotgun from his patrol car, racked what he believed as a less lethal round into the weapon and ordered Monroe to drop the knife and comply with detention. Officer Reister kept his less lethal shotgun lowered and continued to negotiate with the angry and menacing Moore in a calm voice in an effort to seek compliance. Mindful of his CIT training, the officer kept a 40 foot distance so as not to time or distance compress the agitated and angry Monroe. When another arriving officer ran up towards Monroe, the suspect took off running towards a nearby elementary school in session while still armed with the knife. Monroe’s sudden flight towards the school created an immediate exigency of danger to the children and other neighbors that forced Officer Reister and his partner to give chase to stop Monroe from reaching the school grounds.
During the pursuit, Monroe suddenly turned towards the officers and began to erratically and aggressively flail his arms and hands in the air and towards his waistband in a manner where the officers could not longer determine where the suspect’s knife was. At this point, the officers’ distance from Monroe was approximately 21 feet. Officer Reister was heard to yell out several times to Monroe,“Stop! Get on the ground or you will be shot!” Monroe suddenly turned away from the officers and began running towards nearby homes and neighbors. In response to an imminent threat to citizens and a threat to himself and his partner, Officer Reister discharged four rounds from his less lethal shotgun at the fleeing Monroe’s legs in an effort to stop him. The problem was that while loading his less lethal shotgun as required is the darkened underground garage of the PPB, under sodium vapor lighting, Officer Reister had mistakenly loaded lethal 00 buckshot rounds into his less lethal shotgun. Six pellets from one of the officer’s 00 buckshot rounds struck suspect Monroe in his leg and thigh and felled the suspect who was then taken into custody.
Officer Reister’s well intended actions resulted in a mistake that unnecessarily injured a dangerous, fleeing and armed suspect. However it was not a crime. But this did not stop his department from firing the officer. To make matters worse, the County Prosecutor intent upon making a name for himself in uber-liberal Portland, decided to charge Officer Reister with a criminal felony violation of Oregon revised Statute 166.180 “Negligently Wounding Another,” which is actually designed as a hunting negligence violation.
My forensic investigation revealed that Officer Reister had violated department policy in not confirming that he loaded yellow colored less lethal cartridges into his less lethal shotgun. However, I also found that the PPB’s policies and practices of having their officers load their weapons inside a semi-darkened underground garage with sodium vapor lighting caused the red colored lethal cartridges to assume a yellow appearance under those same conditions. This is a human factors problem that clearly underscored an officer making a visual error, absent any criminal intent to cause harm.
My forensic report and my extensive testimony before the Portland Grand Jury detailing Officer’s Reister’s actions that day; his intent to use less lethal force and the human factors involved fell upon deaf ears. An ignorant and uninformed Grand Jury obviously unable to wrap their minds around issues of psychophysiology, applied science and human factors, instead chose to indict poor Officer Reister of a criminal act. The department and city who had abandoned Officer Reister subsequently settled a multi-million dollar case with suspect, now plaintiff Monroe who will most likely continue to harass, disturb and perhaps injure Portland citizens in the future.
Last Sunday, while awaiting motions preceding his criminal trial to conclude, Officer Dane Reister, devoted husband, a wonderful father to his children; a brother officer to his partners in blue and a loyal and steadfast protector of public safety to the citizens of Portland parked his truck near the train tracks in Washougal, WA. No doubt consumed by depression caused by the abandonment of his City and his department’s administration; the loss of a career he loved; and the wrongful, ignorant prosecution of the citizens he once risked his life to protect; quietly waited for the Burlington Northern Railroad train to speed towards him. And then in a moment of final reflection as to what his life of service had become, he stepped in front of that train.
The ultimate goal of suicide is the cessation of pain and suffering. Officer Dane Reister achieved his goal last Sunday. I will never be allowed an opportunity to testify on Dane’s behalf; to clear his name; to make him whole again. No one will. I met Dane and admired him for his loyalty and service to the citizens of Portland. He was an honest and honorable man. He was a man to be respected; to be forgiven for an honest yet unfortunate mistake. He was above all things not a man to be unfairly and politically prosecuted by people unworthy to have walked the beat in his shoes.
Forever more as I gaze upwards while my wife sleeps peacefully next to me and the collage of the dead transit my ceiling, I will see Dane’s face staring down at me. I will make sure that his image secures a place of honor up there, reminding me that Blue Lives Matter.
Dr. Ron Martinelli is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and police practices expert who investigates police-involved death cases and provides independent review at: http://www.martinelliandassoc.com.