A Portland man fatally shot early Friday outside a sports bar near Portland State University in Oregon by campus police officers was a U.S. postal worker and father of three daughters who served in the Navy and married his high school sweetheart, friends say.
They identified the man as Jason E. Washington, 45. Friend Alyssa LeCesne said Washington was also a grandfather to a 5-year-old girl who “hero worshipped the ground he walked on.” She described him as a Franklin High School graduate and an upstanding man who was proud to have helped raise a household full of women.
Washington and his family came back from a trip to Mexico earlier this week, she said.
“There are a lot of people in Portland grieving right now,” LeCesne said.
Police have not yet released Washington’s name, nor any details of the circumstances that led to his death.
Two Portland State University police officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after at least one of them opened fire near The Cheerful Tortoise along Southwest Sixth Avenue around 1:30 a.m.
The officers have been identified as Officer Shawn McKenzie, who has been with the campus public safety office since 2002, and Officer James Dewey, who’s been there since 2014. Both became armed sworn officers in 2016. The school’s board of trustees voted to allow their campus officers to carry firearms two years earlier.
McKenzie and Dewey were near the bar at 1939 S.W. Sixth Avenue around 1:30 a.m. when they noticed a fight, Portland police said. At some point, at least one of the officers shot a man who was at the scene.
LeCesne and Mike Joseph, another friend and former co-worker of Washington’s, said Washington wasn’t involved in the fight and was trying to break it up.
A witness also told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the man wasn’t fighting and was shot after a holstered handgun he was carrying fell onto the ground and he appeared to be trying to pick it up.
After the officers yelled that there was a gun, there was no apparent hesitation before the gunfire, the witness said.
The fight started because one man used racial slurs when speaking to another man, said the witness, who provided video of the altercation leading up to the shots being fired.
Mike Joseph, another friend and former co-worker of Washington’s, said Washington was at the bar with friends, celebrating the Oregon State University baseball team winning the College World Series. He had a concealed carry permit for his handgun, Joseph said.
“I saw the video, and there is no way he should have been shot,” Joseph said. “I wish he didn’t have a gun on him, because this probably wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t.”
Joseph said Washington was well-liked and everyone he’s spoken to about the shooting is furious about his death, “especially after seeing the video.”
“It’s just a really unfortunate situation,” said Donald Dietz, 25, an employee at the Cheerful Tortoise who witnessed the shooting. He had asked a co-worker to call the police when he saw a conflict inside the bar escalate and move outside.
He was only a few feet away when the man was shot.
“The unfortunate situation is he was trying to help and break things up,” Dietz said of the man who was shot.
Dietz recalled the man reaching for his gun after police told him three or four times not to.
“They warned him multiple times not to reach for it, but he did,” Dietz said. “I don’t want the message out there that the cops were trigger-happy.”
Dietz said employees at the Cheerful Tortoise did everything they could to stop the situation from escalating like it did.
“It’s just that people got drunk and stubborn,” he added.
“They had to do it,” he said of the officers involved. “People think they were overzealous, but they had to do it.”
Portland State University President Rahman Shoureshi said he’s asked the campus public safety chief to have an internal review of the shooting, as well as the school’s policy and procedures.
“Campus safety is our top priority at PSU,” Shoureshi said in a statement. “As you know, we are an urban campus, and that presents challenges.”
He said the school tries to provide a “safe and welcoming” environment on campus. The Portland Police Bureau is investigating the shooting.
The Portland State University Student Union said it was mourning the death of the man shot by police and noted the arming of campus officers occurred amid opposition from students. The group said Friday that it will continue to push for campus police to not carry guns.
©2018 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.