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What Happened To Fouad Kaady: Shootings by officers need open review

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Shootings by officers need open review

from the Oregonian

A week that saw two longtime county deputies indicted for felony crimes was capped off Saturday afternoon by a protest calling for a citizen review of why police fatally shot Fouad Kaady last September.

The protest started a new wave of e-mails into my in-box from people questioning why no one was held accountable when police shot and killed the unarmed, naked man.

When you study the police report on the shooting, you probably see whatever you want to see in it. It's not likely to change many minds on either side of the issue about whether police should have shot Kaady.

But in the report, you'll also see the portrait of a hardworking, highly trained Clackamas County deputy who was faced with an incredibly tough decision.

David Willard worked his normal day shift on Sept. 7. Then, when asked to work a few more hours, he agreed to four hours overtime.

He got home a little before 10 p.m., chatted for a bit with family members and had a small bowl of Raisin Bran before hitting the sack.

As always, he was up at 5 the next morning. After showering, he had some oatmeal and orange juice, took his vitamins then read from his Bible for about 20 minutes.

In a few hours, he would be staring across his handgun at Kaady, an enraged, bloody man who was threatening to kill him.

Kaady refused to lie down and charged Willard. After he jumped on top of a police car, Willard and a Sandy police officer feared he might tackle one of them and gain control of one of their weapons. When it appeared Kaady was jumping off the police car, they opened fire.

In October, a grand jury cleared the officers of wrongdoing. Last month, a sheriff's shooting review board found that Willard acted appropriately when he pulled the trigger.

It's easy to lump all last week's news into a pile and question the professionalism of the cops sworn to protect us.

And you'd have to be someone who simply doesn't care if you aren't asking questions about a sheriff's office whose deputies were involved in the shooting deaths of three people last year.

The answers don't come easy. Even when talking with current and former Clackamas County deputies, I got mixed opinions about the Kaady shooting. Some weren't sure it was necessary. But everyone admitted you can't be sure until you're the one standing there deciding whether to pull the trigger.

Sheriff Craig Roberts says he doesn't want to draw up a policy that's too restrictive because every potentially deadly situation is different.

His focus, he says, will be to continue to try to make sure deputies get the best possible training.

That makes sense. And yet, the concern of people questioning the shootings also makes sense. When you're trying to understand why some people feel like cops can get away with murder in the United States, you have to understand the big picture.

Just two months ago a jury in San Jose found a California narcotics agent not guilty of voluntary manslaughter after he fatally shot a man --in the back --who was running away.

It turns out the agent had mistaken the man for a wanted parolee.

In my opinion, the circumstances of that shooting have almost nothing in common with the Kaady shooting.

And as horrible as the verdict might sound in the California case, it has one important thing going for it: the fact that there was a very public process.

I'm not suggesting anyone should have been put on trial for the Kaady shooting. But the sheriff's office only hurts itself when the only investigations of the matter --a grand jury hearing and police review board hearing --are private.

When high-profile matters such as this are handled largely behind closed doors, the sheriff's office only encourages people to believe it has something to hide.

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