Man shot outside hospital was escaped federal prisoner

Man shot outside hospital was escaped federal prisoner »Play Video
Merle Hatch

PORTLAND, Ore. – A man who was shot dead by police in a Portland hospital parking lot was an escaped federal prisoner, police said.

Merle Hatch, 50, was shot Sunday night in a parking lot at Portland Adventist Medical Center, where he was a patient before the shooting, hospital officials said.

According to sources, no gun was recovered at the scene.

Sources say Portland police are trained that they don't have to see a gun before opening fire if they believe there is an imminent threat.

Police were told by a hospital employee the suspect had a gun, according to sources.

Law enforcement sources told KATU News that Hatch was serving a 10-year sentence at a federal corrections institution in Sheridan, Ore. after being convicted in a 2004 bank robbery. Sources said Hatch was given a plane ticket and sent to a half-way house in Colorado on Feb. 12, but he never showed up.

A listing on the Bureau of Prisons website confirmed Hatch’s inmate status as escaped.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday identified Hatch as the suspect in a bank robbery on Feb. 15. Sgt. Adam Phillips said Hatch robbed the Wells Fargo Bank located at 12072 SE Sunnyside Road in Clackamas. Hatch presented a teller with a note that said he had a gun. No one was hurt in the robbery.

Portland police said Hatch was a career criminal with arrests in California, Arizona and Colorado on a variety of charges that included homicide, theft, burglary and bank robbery. Hatch appeared to have multiple aliases, investigators said.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, as many as 45,000 federal prisoners are transferred without supervision to half-way houses each year. Approximately 150 to 200 of those prisoners escape.

The Multnomah County medical examiner said Tuesday that Hatch died from gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen.

Three police officers shot Hatch, according to police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson. It’s unclear if Hatch fired at the officers.

Responding officers were told Hatch was a hospital patient armed with a black handgun and that he had pointed the gun at a hospital security vehicle, Simpson said. The officers gave him commands, but at some point the situation escalated and the three officers fired shots, killing Hatch.

Medical responders pronounced Hatch dead at the scene.

The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave during the shooting investigation, which is standard procedure. They have been identified as:

  • Sgt. Nathan Voeller, a 12-year veteran
  • Officer Andrew Hearst, a 3-year veteran
  • Officer Royce Curtiss, a 7-year veteran

Anyone who has information about Hatch is asked to contact Portland Police Detective Bryan Steed at 503-823-0395.