Portland reaches $600,000 settlement for police killing of 24-year-old Terrell Johnson
Attorneys for the family of Terrell Johnson announced late Tuesday they had reached a settlement with the city of Portland for a police shooting in 2017 that left Johnson dead.
The $600,000 settlement must still be approved by the Portland City Council.
On May 10, 2017, Portland Police Officer Samson Ajir shot and killed Johnson, 24, at a MAX light-rail station in Southeast Portland.
At the time, Johnson was experiencing a mental health crisis, according to the family’s attorney Juan Chavez. The city’s attorney has disputed that.
Johnson had no formal mental health diagnosis at the time of his death, Chavez said.
“Use of force against those with mental illness has not decreased,” Chavez said. “We have to stop telling ourselves this is a problem we can fix with more money and more training, and toothless community oversight. These problems are still here.”
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the city of Portland in 2012 over its use of force against people experiencing a mental health crisis. The two governments entered into a settlement agreement that remains in effect.
On May 10, 2017, police were called to the Southeast Flavel Street MAX station.
A bystander had called officers, concerned about Johnson after he allegedly chased a 17-year-old at the station.
The teen later said Johnson had a knife. When police arrived on the scene, Johnson ran and Ajir chased him.
When Johnson eventually slowed down, Ajir was able to catch up, according to a 2019 report by the OIR Group, which the city hired to review police shootings.
When he was just a few feet away, Johnson turned around holding a box cutter and slashed at Ajir.
Next, Ajir unholstered his gun, while walking backward, according to the OIR report.
“As he moved back, his heel hit a curb and he started to fall backward,” the OIR Group report states. “According to Officer Ajir’s statement, he fired one shot as he was falling, and the subject continued to slash out and move toward him. From the ground, Officer Ajir fired three more rounds.”
Ajir shot four times and struck Johnson with three bullets, twice in the back.
Johnson died at the scene. The family filed a civil lawsuit in 2019.
Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting