Portland settling with family of dead motorist

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The city of Portland has tentatively reached a $350,000 settlement with relatives of a man fatally shot by police during a traffic stop four years ago.

The proposed deal, which must by approved by the City Council, would provide payments to the son and mother of James Jahar Perez, The Oregonian newspaper reported.

Portland Officer Jason Sery shot and killed Perez on March 28, 2004. The shooting of the unarmed black motorist sparked an outcry. In response, Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk held a rare public inquest after a grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing by the officer. Sery resigned from the Portland police later that year, saying he wanted to become a minister. He later took a job with Beaverton police.

Elden M. Rosenthal, the attorney who represented the Perez family, declined to comment on the proposed settlement.

The Perez lawsuit charged that the Portland Police Bureau's use-of-force policy was unconstitutional. A federal judge in Portland rejected the challenge, and an appeals court earlier this year said the policy was not unconstitutional as written.

The city, however, could still go to trial on the question of whether the police violated Perez's constitutional rights.

Mayor Tom Potter issued a statement supporting the settlement, though he said Sery's actions were justified.

"Any loss of life diminishes not only a family and the officers involved, but our entire community. And every death raises old questions of trust between the community and the men and women we have asked to protect us. We must continue working together to break down the stereotypes that keep us from being true partners in building the Portland we all desire," Potter said.

"I hope that the settlement will bring closure to the officers and their families and to the family of Mr. Perez.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)