Multnomah County jury finds Portland Police used excessive force during arrest, awards $562,000

A Multnomah County jury awarded $562,000 to Jason Cox, a local iron worker who was beaten, including 6-8 blows to his head while being tasered 4 times, by the Portland Police during an arrest. The award is every penny the plaintiff asked for in the claim against the city.

Side-by-side Comparison of injuries sustained by Jason Cox
Side-by-side Comparison of injuries sustained by Jason Cox

On the night of the incident, Mr. Cox drove his 1969 Chevy truck into the parking lot of the Pallas club on 136th and Powell, when Portland Police officer Jeffrey Elias, who had followed Cox for about 10 blocks in his patrol car, jumped out of his car and confronted Cox about driving aggressively. Cox pointed to an SUV and speculated that the officer may have seen a different vehicle since his was old and slow. Officers Robert Bruders and Sarah Kerwin arrived on the scene moments later, and an argument ensued about whether or not Cox’s vehicle was the one in question.

Unbeknownst to the officers, the entire encounter was being recorded by a motion activated surveillance camera in the parking lot of the club, which can be viewed below.

The officers, after having Cox put his hands behind his back and patting him down, then decided to take Cox to the ground, where they yanked his arms, punched him in the face 6-8 times, and shocked him with a taser 4 times over the course of 30 seconds. Before the beating, Cox pleaded with officers to go easy on his left shoulder which had undergone surgery 1 year earlier, but officers appear to intentionally jerk and pull on his shoulder on the video, which multiple doctors agreed led to a posterior tear in his labrum. The tear caused Mr. Cox, 40, to retire from his iron and welding work that he had done prior to the incident, which payed him $33 an hour with benefits.

Mark McDougal, Greg Kafoury, Jason Cox & Jason Kafoury after winning $562,000, in a suit against the Portland Police.
Mark McDougal, Greg Kafoury, Jason Cox & Jason Kafoury after winning $562,000, in a suit against the Portland Police.

Furthermore, when a Paramedic arrived on scene, police were noticeably tight-lipped about the incident, and did not allow the EMT to finish their evaluation of Cox. The paramedic felt that the lack of explanation was strange and suspicious enough to write it up in their official incident report. Cox was charged with DUII, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He reached a plea deal, pleading guilty to DUII while the other charges were dropped. Even though his blood alcohol level was .078, below the legal limit of .08, Oregon is a zero tolerance state where a person can still be convicted even if they are below the legal limit.

The jury awarded $33,138 for medical expenses which included additional surgeries on Cox’s left shoulder, $128,991 for economic damages and $400,000 for non-economic damages (pain and suffering). The large monetary award sends a clear message to the Portland Police Department and the City of Portland that excessive force and battery against our citizens is completely unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. The police officers will not have to pay the judgment, the taxpayers will pay. The Portland Police department will do nothing to discipline the officers involved, because the police are a law unto themselves. If a couple civilians had held someone down and beaten them this severely, they would be facing measure 11 criminal charges. Mr. Cox and his attorneys Greg and Jason Kafoury have used this verdict as a springboard to promote mandatory body cameras on all Portland Police officers to help prevent future abuse.

For more on this story, check out the links below to see local media coverage of the trial and verdict.

Surveillance Video

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Aimee Green’s story on the verdict – 09/29/2014

KGW 8 News coverage of the verdict – 09/29/2014

KOIN 6 News coverage of the verdict – 09/29/2014

KATU 2 News coverage of the verdict – 09/29/2014

KPTV 12 News coverage of the verdict – 09/29/2014

Green’s story during the trial  – 09/24/2014