The Rev. Jesse Jackson denounced the shooting of Aaron Campbell in Portland, Ore., calling the incident an outright “execution” and expressing anger that another unarmed Black man has been gunned down by police.
Campbell, 25, was killed January 29 by a White police officer after stepping out of an apartment with his hands over his head. He was shot in the back and reportedly had been distraught over the death earlier in the day of his brother.
Ronald Frashour, the officer who fired at him, said he thought Campbell was reaching toward his waistband for a weapon, according to newspaper accounts in Portland.
A 911 recording indicates that officers were called to the apartment by two women who said the victim was suicidal and wanted officers to kill him. The women warned that Campbell had a gun. But a dispatcher noted that Campbell was “walking out and was compliant so far,” before an officer is heard saying, “beanbag rounds deployed.”
The U.S. Justice Department said on February 18 that it opened an inquiry into the incident earlier that week, calling the action routine in, “an officer-involved shooting of this nature,” according to the Associated Press.
Jackson traveled to Portland earlier that week for a rally that drew a standing room-only crowd, and criticized the police department’s plans to return the officer to regular duty, the AP reported.
Jackson also said that Campbell’s treatment had been both beneath the dignity of the man and of the Portland community.
“What happened to Aaron is not a matter of Black and White, it’s a matter of wrong and right,” Jackson said. “There was no threat to the man who pulled the trigger.”
According to the newspaper accounts, Jackson was joined by a contingent of Black leaders in the city who called for changes in the Portland Police Bureau. They also said that a pattern of the use of excessive force when handling minority suspects exists in Portland.
A report commissioned in 2007 by the bureau stated that the use of force should not be viewed as synonymous with excessive force. The report reflected that overall, Portland officers applied force in less than one percent of all calls for service and about five percent of total arrests.
Although a grand jury determined that Frashour’s actions were consistent with the use of deadly force, it declined to take action against the officer.
The jurors’ only comment was contained in a letter to the district attorney, and stated that “Our sympathies lie with the Campbell family and the mood of the community.”