Portland Sergeant: ‘If You Come Across a Black Person, Just Shoot Them’
On February 9, 2017, Portland police officer Andrew Hearst used his AR-15 to put three bullets into 17-year-old Quanice Hayes’ head. Hayes had a gun.
The problem: Hayes’ gun was a toy, none of the police officers including Hearst saw a gun and Hayes had already surrendered–he was on his knees at the time the officer shot him.
A grand jury cleared Hearst of any wrong doing. Three days after the shooting, on Feb. 12, 2017, Sgt. Gregg Lewis was teaching Portland Police Department’s Central Command how to place civil holds on intoxicated suspects and take them to a detox center. Lewis said police should choose their actions based on the kind of person they were dealing with. As he explained what they should do when they encountered a homeless person versus a drunk person in a suit and tie, someone mentioned that people were still angry about the shooting of Quanice Hayes, so police should be careful.
Lewis allegedly responded, “If they are black, just shoot them.” While there are varying accounts of what Lewis actually said, four officers reported the racist “joke” to a supervisor by the next morning, according to the Oregonian.
Lewis kept his job at the Portland Police Department for another year, claiming he could be a little sarcastic at times and that it was unfortunate that his comment about shooting black people “is being colored as a racial thing.”
“I remember saying, and I thought it was kind of funny in light of the stupid conversations in the media,” Lewis told investigators. “So you know, unless it’s a black guy, then we just shoot them.”
On Feb. 2, 2018, nearly a year after Quanice Hayes was killed, the Portland police fired Lewis. He hired a lawyer who wanted to get him reinstated, so Portland’s city attorneys offered him $100,020.53 in back pay and retirement.
Jo Ann Hardesty, the first black woman to ever be elected to the Portland City Council found out about the offer after she was elected in November 2018. She objected.
“It’s clear we have a broken system,” Hardesty said at a meeting Wednesday. “If it was up to me, I’d say, ‘Let’s go to arbitration. Let’s fight the good fight because even if we lose it, we send a very strong message that this is just not acceptable. That you’d don’t get to sit in roll call and make racist comments and you don’t get a payday on top of your city-paid retirement.’”