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What Happened To Fouad Kaady: No, I'm Not Okay

Monday, April 23, 2007

No, I'm Not Okay

published in Slabtown Chronicle

No-one really knows what happened to Fouad Kaady, 27, a Lebanese-American resident of Gresham, OR before he was shot to death by a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputy and a Sandy Police Officer on September 8, 2005. What we do know is that he is dead and the circumstances of his death raise serious questions about how police handle confrontations with injured and angry people.

The Clackamas County Shooting Review Board found that Deputy Dave Willard, one of the officers who fired shots at the naked, bleeding young man, had “acted within existing rules and regulations and according to current training.” If this is true, there should probably be some changes made to current training and existing rules and regulations.

Kaady’s death has become such a polarizing political issue that it is difficult to separate fact from opinion. The Sandy Post, a local paper in the Portland suburb, won an award for its reporting on this case and their website provides the clearest information. From their reporting of the police files released in October, 2005 it is clear that police acted in fear and created as much danger for the community as Kaady did. It is also clear that the officers distorted the facts in their version of the story.

Officers say that they feared the young man, who was bleeding severely from injuries and burns suffered during a car accident, “possessed chemically enhanced strength.” They are trying to imply that Kaady was under the influence of hard narcotics. There is no evidence of this at all. The evidence that might be able to prove the officers’ allegations, a Toxicology report, has not been released.

Most of Kaady’s friends said that he never used drugs, other than tobacco. There is some evidence that he may have been smoking marijuana earlier in the day, but it seems more likely that Kaady was under severe emotional stress, aggravated by a serious head injury and repeated Tasering by the officers.

Why did the officers Taser Kaady, a naked, injured man with a severe head wound and second and third degree burns over much of his body? Because he refused to lie down on his burned skin and they were afraid to touch him because he was covered with blood.

How did 27-year-old Foaud Kaady end up injured and burned and then shot to death by the police? That’s a harder story to tell.

Foaud Kaady was a graduate of Gresham High School and was well known around Gresham and Sandy. He was a painter and always willing to lend a helping hand to his neighbors. He had recently become a licensed real estate agent and was reportedly excited about joining his mother in the real estate business. The day of his death Kaady had planned to pick his mother up at the airport after a trip.

Friends said that Kaady had not been acting like himself for days, or even weeks, before his death, but no-one knew exactly what had happened. Sarah Maness, who knew Kaady for two years, said that he had been depressed and angry for a few weeks. “He’s been pissed at everything,” she told the Sandy Post.

Kaady’s father said that Kaady had recently broken up with his girlfriend. Other family members agree that he was under financial pressure, stressed about his break-up and some other unnamed problem. Other family members argued that he was not depressed and that he was very happy with his life.

Whatever Kaady’s state of mind, his actions on September 8, 2005 were odd. At 6:30am Kaady was spotted driving erratically in the parking lot of Mount Hood Community College. He was doing “donuts” and “burn-outs” in his pickup truck, some people do that for fun and the lot was probably empty at 6:30, but when a campus security officer approached Kaady acted strangely.

Security Officer Jefferson Potts said that as he approached the vehicle, Kaady accelerated the pickup and hopped over a three-foot embankment and onto Stark Street, bottoming out on the pavement. It is unclear how close Potts got to the vehicle, but he reported that it had a “strong smell of marijuana.”

Kaady was next seen at his father’s home wearing a suit. Rashid Kaady said that his son’s behavior was not unusual in any way.

At about 9:45am Kaady stopped at his usual drive through tobacco shop on Stark St. and bought two packs of cigarettes. Rudd McGarity, a clerk at Hilton Haven who had sold tobacco to Kaady before, told the Sandy Post that Kaady was not acting like himself. He over paid for his purchase, with change out of a big jar, and would not let the clerk return the extra change.

McGarity said that Kaady looked “frazzled” and he asked the young man if he was OK. Kaady replied, “No, I’m not okay.” McGarity said that Kaady looked “like he had the worst news of his life and had to go deal with it.”

Early that afternoon Kaady was seen parked in his pickup truck in the lot at Rick’s Custom Fencing on Stark about ten blocks from the tobacco shop. Kaady had run out of gas. Employees at Rick’s said the young man was acting “weird.” He “fooled around” in his truck for about ten minutes and then took off running in nothing but a pair of shorts.

Kaady’s sister said that wearing only shorts was Kaady’s “trademark” and that he ran to his father’s house to get a gas can for his truck. She said he returned to Rick’s in his mother’s car with a can of gas, but found that his pickup had been towed. Here’s where things really get weird.

According to the Sandy Post Kaady’s car was not towed from the lot at Rick’s until Saturday September 10, two days after Kaady was killed. For some reason Kaady drove in his mother’s car toward Sandy, a neighboring community.

Kaady’ sister says that a spark from Kaady’s cigarette ignited the gasoline can as he drove and Kaady crashed his car into two other cars while trying to put out the flames. The Buick LeSabre that Kaady was driving crashed into the vehicle of Tiffany Stanko, forcing her off the road.

Kaady then hit the car of Greg Elwell of Boring. Elwell, believing that the driver of the LeSabre was unconscious tried to slow both vehicles with his brakes, but then the LeSabre pulled away and the driver game him a “thumbs up” sign as he passed. Elwell said that Kaady was driving “completely crazy.”

Kaady’s body was severely burned on his upper torso, face and into his scalp, but the Oregon State Police Arson Investigating Team said there was no evidence that the fire started inside the vehicle. They said they found no evidence of a gas can inside the car.

Finally Kaady crashed the LeSabre into the woods, starting several fires in the dry brush. Read the story of this accident at the Sandy Post, you won’t believe it.

Kaady reportedly fought off would-be rescuers and wandered away from the accident before being confronted by the police on SE 362nd Ave. During the confrontation with the injured and distraught young man, Deputy Willard left a shotgun unattended on the hood of his vehicle. Later he said that he feared that Kaady would go for the shotgun and that’s why he fired three shots into the young man’s chest.

Willard also said that Kaady threatened to kill him and Police Officer William Bergin, who fired five shots at the young man. None of the witnesses on the scene heard death threats, but most agreed that Kaady “went crazy” after being Tasered three times and climbed onto the police car. None of them saw him go for the shotgun or lunge at the officers, as they both claimed at different times.

Witnesses on the scene said that Kaady was “docile” and sitting on the ground when the police arrived. He would not lie down at their command and so they Tasered him. Willard reported that Kaady was “kind of catatonic” when he arrived, but that he was afraid to approach him because of the blood that covered most of his badly burned body.

If this is the way Clackamas County Sheriff’s Deputies are trained to deal with accident victims then we need to rethink that training. Regardless of Kaady’s erratic behavior I wonder how threatening he would have been if he wasn’t walking naked, after losing his shorts in the accident, and if he didn’t look like an Arab.

Kaady’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against Clackamas County and the officers involved. Portland’s flamboyant attorney Gerry Spence is representing the family so there should be a good story to tell there eventually.

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