A grand jury found “no criminal wrongdoing” in the case of a Portland police officer who shot a homeless man named Jack Dale Collins. According to the police report, Collins was approaching officer Walters with a knife—even though the officer repeatedly told him to drop it. So officer Walters shot and killed Collins. Which is fair enough. Or is it? Officer Walters didn’t tase Collins. Officer Collins claimed he didn’t use a Taser stun gun “because it wouldn’t have worked through the man’s heavy coat” (according to an investigative report released Monday, reported by tdn.com).
He said he rejected pepper spray or a baton because the man was too close to him, and there was no backup. In a transcript of his statement to investigators, Walters said the coat Collins was wearing “looked like a jacket you might sleep out at night in.” He said stun guns are ineffective on such coats because the electrical probes get stuck in the material and fail to make the connection needed to shock the person.
Taser’s VP of Comms confirms the officer’s claim. “A two-inch coat could defeat an X26 Taser. There are ways to increase your effectiveness,” Steve Tuttle tells TTAG. “We train officers to aim for the shoulders or legs. And we’ve developed an X3 Taser with three shots; it’s like a semi-automatic compared to a Derringer.”
Yes, well, the Portland po-po ain’t got one. So, would Tuttle choose a gun or a Taser when approached by a man with a thick coat and a knife. “The gun,” he says without a moment’s hesitation. “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight,” Tuttle says, reversing his metaphors.
That said, Tuttle says the choice of weapon is often determined by the pace of events. “Dynamic” > gun. “Stand-off” > Taser. So how did it go down in Rain City?
Walters said he was answering a routine complaint about an intoxicated man and was surprised when he knocked on the door of the arboretum restroom and Collins emerged with blood on his neck, face, clothes and hands.
Walters said he was “totally shocked for a moment when it opened because it just doesn’t normally happen that way.”
He described a relatively small courtyard area and Collins moving closer until “now we have like a couple feet between me and being cut by a blade.”
Walters shot Collins four times, and one bullet struck a major artery. In a recording of the police dispatch exchange, Walters says “shots fired, shots fired” shortly after asking for backup.
When asked during the interview with investigators whether he could have done anything differently, Walters replied, “I just don’t think so.”
Walters said that when Collins responded at one point that he was not going to drop the knife, despite repeated commands, “it really just solidified to me that that was, that was it.”