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Regional Interests

No indictment for Portland officer who killed Michael Ray Townsend

The Multnomah County District Attorney announced on Wednesday that Portland police officer Curtis Brown will face no charges for shooting and killing Michael Ray Townsend. District Attorney Mike Schmidt sent out a statement saying a grand jury declined to indict Brown.

Townsend called 911 on June 24 seeking help for suicidal ideations. He told an operator he had the means to hurt himself.

According to the district attorney’s office, Townsend told responding officers and paramedics that he wanted to go to the hospital. When Officer Brett Emmons told Townsend he would need to be patted down, Townsend reached for his pocket and refused the search, according to Schmidt’s statement.

“Mr. Townsend then pulled a sharp-ended screwdriver out of his pocket,” the statement said. “Witnesses heard Mr. Townsend threaten Officer Brown and saw Mr. Townsend move towards the officer.”

Security camera footage of the shooting shows first responders move abruptly away from Townsend and Brown draws his firearm. Townsend stands up and advances toward Brown, appearing to hold a weapon in his hands. Brown then shoots Townsend who, according to the district attorney’s office, died in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

In the early 2000s, Townsend was diagnosed with bipolar depression and schizophrenia. His sister, Rachel Steven, previously told OPB that right up until the day he was killed, her brother struggled to get help for his mental health.

She said instead of finding the mental health help he needed in Portland, Townsend instead wound up in and out of jail, where his mental health declined further. Steven said she thinks her brother was terrified of going back to jail.

According to medical records reviewed by OPB, Townsend’s June 24 call for help was at least the 14th time he had called 911 or sought mental health help since moving to Portland in 2015. An ambulance had brought him to the Legacy Good Samaritan emergency department just two days earlier for suicidal ideations, but Townsend checked himself out after he didn’t meet the requirements for a psychiatric hold,

Townsend was at least the second person killed this year while in the midst of a mental health crisis, and among the 43 people killed by a Portland police officer since Kendra James was shot and killed in 2003. Of the more than 60 officers involved in those shootings, zero have been indicted or disciplined.

Rachel Steven with her older brother, Michael Ray Townsend.
Courtesy of the family /
Michael Ray Townsend with his younger sister, Rachel Steven.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting