PORTLAND, Or. – A Multnomah County fire department is in the hot seat this week after fire fighters mistakenly killed an unarmed man while responding to a grease fire in Northwest Portland last weekend.
First responders arrived on the scene at approximately 4:45 a.m. Sunday, August 23, and were preparing to enter the residence when a shirtless man brandishing what fire fighters believed to be a machete –later identified as a spatula– burst from the home. Fearing for their lives, fire fighters reacted quickly, blasting the suspect in the face at near point-blank range with a high-pressure water hose, killing him almost instantly.
Portland fire chief Sarah Bloom hailed the fire fighters as heroes during an early morning press conference on Thursday, telling reporters, “They did what they were trained to do which is to put out fires.” Chief Bloom said the fire fighters involved in the fatal spraying have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation and are undergoing counseling for PTSD.
Neighbors described the man as a loner who mostly stayed indoors and was often seen wearing a surgical-style mask. “He wasn’t Black but he wasn’t entirely white either,” neighbor Shirley Moore told FOX 12 Oregon. Ms. Moore later speculated that the suspect “might be Italian or Native American” but that it was “hard to tell these days.”
While authorities have declined to disclose the suspect’s identity citing a pending investigation, a law enforcement official with firsthand knowledge of the situation told Real News Right Now that the man “was no Good Samaritan” and, in fact, had “dozens” of unpaid parking tickets and had even been issued a written citation for jaywalking in March of 2009.