The city of Portland is poised to pay out nearly $1 million to the family of Lane Martin, a 31-year-old Portland State University student Portland police shot and killed last summer.
On Wednesday, the City Council will vote whether to approve the $975,000 settlement to Martin’s estate. Portland police officer Gary Doran shot Martin nine times on July 30, 2019. A grand jury cleared him of charges.
According to Dan Handelman, whose watchdog group Portland Copwatch tracks police settlements, this will be among the city’s top four payouts for use of deadly force by Portland police.
The family of James Chasse Jr., who died after being tackled and tasered by police in 2006, received a $1.6 million settlement from the city. The family of Aaron Campbell, whom police fatally shot as he walked out of his apartment building with his hands behind his head, received $1.2 million. A record $2.3 million went to William Monroe, at whom an officer mistakenly fired with lethal rounds from a beanbag shotgun, disabling Monroe; it was the largest police settlement in Portland’s history.
All four men were believed to have mental illnesses. The 911 caller for Campbell told dispatch Campbell was suicidal. Monroe had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Chasse with schizophrenia. Martin’s family has said Lane suffered from a mental illness illness, possibly bipolar disorder.
If the Council approves the settlement Wednesday, Martin’s family intends to put a portion of the money to a scholarship fund at the College of the Arts at PSU where Martin was a student, according to the family’s attorney, Jesse Merrithew.
“No amount of money can ever bring Lane back. However, Lane’s family is hopeful that this settlement sends a message to the Portland Police Bureau that they must do better when dealing with people in crisis,” Merrithew said in an emailed statement. “The family is looking forward to moving past the focus on his death to focusing on his life and helping to create a lasting legacy of that life.”
Martin’s family filed a lawsuit against the city last fall on the same day a jury declined to indict the police officer who shot him. The suit alleged Portland police officers responded to a man in the throes of a mental health crisis with excessive force.
“At the time he was killed by Officer Doran, Lane Martin was in the midst of a mental health crisis,” the suit reads. “He was delusional and paranoid. PPB’s response to these mental health symptoms exacerbated his paranoia and precipitated his flight.”
Police officers were dispatched that day to reports that Martin was armed with a hatchet and a knife. According to transcripts from the grand jury, more than 20 police officers followed as Martin moved from a parking lot to a MAX station, and finally to the courtyard of an apartment building in East Portland where Doran shot him.
Doran said Martin had put his hand into his right pocket and Doran believed Martin was reaching for a folding knife. He testified that he did not recall if the blade was open or closed. Doran fired 11 or 12 bullets, nine of which hit Martin.
In the weeks before the shooting, Martin had been placed on a 72-hour mental health hold at Portland’s psychiatric emergency room.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Portland police officers routinely responded to people experiencing a mental health crisis with excessive force. The resulting 2014 settlement agreement between the city and DOJ was intended to guide the needed changes within the bureau. Earlier this year, DOJ officials told the city they believed the Portland police had met all the terms laid out in the 77-page agreement.
This summer, The Oregonian reported that half of fatal shootings by Portland police involved people with a mental illness.