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Regional Interests

Grand jury declines charges against Gresham officer involved in fatal shooting

District Attorney Mike Schmidt.
District Attorney Mike Schmidt.

A Multnomah County grand jury declined to charge the Gresham police officer who shot and killed Israel Berry on May 31, 2020.

Officer James Doyle responded to a disturbance call around 9:30 p.m. in Southeast Portland. The Gresham police were fielding some calls in Portland that night to assist the Portland Police Bureau which was stretched thin responding to the first days of last summer’s months-long racial justice uprising.

“Body-worn camera footage and other evidence showed that Officer Doyle shot at Mr. Berry as he drove his vehicle toward Officer Doyle,” a press release from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said. “Mr. Berry was hit and killed by one of those rounds.”

Security camera footage from a neighbor shows the altercation which prompted the 911 call. That video shows Berry get out of his parked car, take trash bags from his trunk and throw them on the lawn of a home. A man and a woman come out of the home, confront him and a scuffle ensues. At one point Berry knocks the man over before Berry gets into his car and drives away, knocking over several trash cans in the process.

In March, Schmidt made the rare decision to appoint outside attorney Samuel Kaufman to help lead the prosecution. Kaufman has worked as a criminal defense attorney in both state and federal court.

“I’m not aware either in Oregon or nationally of a time where a District Attorney brought in a defense attorney to come in and co-prosecute a case like this,” Schmidt told OPB, adding that he was reminded during his campaign by a friend that defense attorneys are experts at cross-examining police officers. “If we want the community to trust the process they have to know that the fix isn’t in.”

Before hiring Kaufman, Schmidt had initially asked for assistance from the Oregon Department of Justice, but that request was turned down in February, prompting Schmidt to pivot, he said.

Bringing in a defense attorney may be rare, but seeking outside assistance with officer use of force is increasingly common in the metro area. Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton turned the deadly use of force investigation of former Tigard police officer Gabriel Maldonado over to the Oregon Department of Justice. Maldonado shot and killed Jacob Macduff on Jan. 6 during what Macduff’s family said was a mental health crisis. Schmidt and the Justice Department are working together to investigate Portland police officer Zachary Delong who shot and killed Robert Delgado in April. And Schmidt has sought assistance from the Department of Justice for at least one investigation into a PPB use of force incident during racial justice protests.

Doyle’s lawyer Mark Makler said the longer than usual investigation frustrated Doyle.

“Fourteen months was a long time for Officer Doyle to be on pins and needles about what may or may not happen with the rest of his life,” said Makler, who estimates he has taken on about 350 police shootings in his 30 years practicing law. “The process that we have used for this officer-involved shooting...is one that has never been done before and my client’s life was put on hold because he did his job.”

Law enforcement in Multnomah County killed 22 people from 2013 to 2020 according to the website Police Scorecard, which tracks policing outcomes across the country. A police officer has never faced charges in Multnomah County for killing someone while on duty.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting