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Armed Suspect Shoots Two Police Officers

December 02, 2004 00:00



On Monday, December 6, 2004, the Police Bureau concluded its interviews of Portland Police Officers involved in the December 2, 2004, shooting two Portland Police Officers and the subsequent death of 24-year-old Willie Thomas Grigsby.

At 12:55 a.m., Portland Police Officers attempted to stop Grigsby after determining that the pick-up truck he was driving was stolen. Grigsby refused to stop, and officers initiated a pursuit. At 1:00 a.m., the suspect lost control of the vehicle near the intersection of 84th and Tolman, crashing the pick-up against a house. As the suspect fled northbound on foot, officers first attempted to control Grigsby, giving him verbal commands, which were ignored. Officers were able to grab Grigsby, but he was able to break away and continued running northbound.

At one point, approximately 1.5 blocks from the crash location (6200 Block of S.E. 84th), Officer Richard Steinbronn deployed a Taser in an attempt to take custody of Grigsby. Unbeknownst to officers, the suspect was wearing three shirts, a heavy nylon jacket, and two pairs of pants—possibly making the Taser probes less than effective.

During deployment of the Taser, the suspect fell to the ground, however, the Taser did not have the desired effect, as Grigsby continued moving and appeared to be fighting the effects of the Taser. While Officer Steinbronn was deploying the Taser, Grigsby, who was armed with a 25-caliber Jennings pistol, spun on the ground and began shooting, taking aim at the officers and striking Officers Steinbronn and Christopher Gjovik.

Officer Steinbronn was shot in the leg and Officer Gjovik was shot in the ankle in the initial burst of gunfire. The investigation concluded that Officer Ney Phothivongsa saw a muzzle flash, believed a bullet passed through his hair, and returned fire realizing he was also the target of gunfire from the suspect.

After Grigsby shot at the officers, three returned fire; detectives recovered 27 casings from the officers’ weapons and believe that potentially 32 rounds were fired. The suspect fired a total of 6 rounds, emptying his firearm. Additional ammunition was later discovered when it fell from the suspect’s clothing during the autopsy. (MORE) (2)

During interviews, Detectives learned that officers recalled firing their weapons, but did not recall any other officer shooting. Detectives concluded that the officers fired in response to the direct threat on their lives.

The exchange of gunfire lasted a very short period of time and occurred in a very confined space. The estimated distance between the suspect and the officers was approximately 15 feet. The suspect landed on the ground, with his firearm underneath him and his head and shoulders pointing away from the officers. The injured officers retreated and additional responding officers assisted them to safety. Responding officers realized Grigsby continued to have access to his weapon and refused all verbal commands. At one point, the suspect rose to his knees, causing officers to believe he was again going to shoot.

After the initial shooting, responding officers developed a plan to deploy less lethal to gain control of Grigsby. Up to three officers deployed a total of 22 beanbag rounds at Grigsby, but the rounds appeared to have no effect; the suspect remained noncompliant and officers could not see his hands because he was facing away from them. Realizing the beanbag rounds were ineffective, the officers developed a plan to approach the suspect and deploy a Taser at a closer range, which was also ineffective.

Because the suspect was still armed and less lethal deployments were ineffective, Officers activated the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT). SERT arrived at the scene and took custody of Grigsby, who was then pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene.

During the autopsy, the Medical Examiner determined that Grigsby was shot 13 times but that the rounds were not immediately fatal. The Medical Examiner also observed that there was minimal evidence that the less lethal rounds injured or effected Grigsby, possibly due to his numerous layers of clothing.

This is all the information the Police Bureau will be able to release until the Grand Jury concludes its independent investigation. Anyone with information who has not come forward, should contact Portland Police Detectives at (503) 823-0479.

On Thursday, December 2, 2004, at 12:55 am, Portland Police observed a male subject driving a stolen pick-up truck in the area of Southeast 111th Avenue and Holgate Street. Officer attempted to stop the suspect, but he accelerated and the officers initiated a pursuit. The pursuit continued to the area of the 6200 block of Southeast 84th Avenue, where the suspect crashed the car into a house. The suspect fled on foot, and the officers continued to pursue the suspect on foot.

Three officers were involved in the exchange of gunfire with the suspect, two, a 34-year-old, 8-year-veteran, and a 28-year-old, 4-year-veteran, were struck by the suspect’s rounds. The third officer, a 33-year-old, 8-year veteran was uninjured. The injured officers were transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries; one has been released.

The suspect died at the scene, and the Medical Examiner is scheduled to conduct an autopsy tomorrow. The suspect will be identified following notification of next of kin.

Over the course of the day, Detectives have interviewed 14 Bureau members, and have canvassed the area where the incident occurred. Detectives are seeking contact with anyone who may have information regarding this investigation. If you saw any portion of the incident and have not had contact with police, call the Homicide Unit of the Portland Police Bureau at (503) 823-0479.

“This morning's shooting marked the second time in a week that Portland Police Bureau Officers faced armed suspects who were defiant and failed to comply with police commands,” said Chief Derrick Foxworth. “There are times when people make choices that force officers to use deadly force. This is the most important decision an officer will make in his or her career. It is one that is never made lightly, and afterwards, it is always difficult for those involved.”

Mayor Vera Katz stated: “This is a reminder of the dangers officers face on a daily basis. I want to thank our officers for the sacrifices they make and extend my sincere wishes to the injured officers and their families as they heal.”


Media Relations:
Sgt. Pete Simpson
Desk: 503-823-0830
Pager: 503-790-1779

Portland Police Bureau
1111 SW 2nd Ave, Suite 1526
Portland, Oregon 97204



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