Officer who fired 'wrong round' at man pleads not guilty

Officer who fired 'wrong round' at man pleads not guilty
Police display a beanbag gun, left, and a regular shotgun. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland police officer accused of shooting a live shotgun round to subdue a man instead of "less lethal" bean-bag rounds in June faced a judge Tuesday.

Officer Dane Reister, a 15-year police veteran, was in court to be arraigned on felony and misdemeanor assault charges. Through his attorney, Reister entered "not guilty" pleas to those charges.

There was visible support from fellow officers who showed up at Reister's court appearance.

The Portland Police Association, which is the police union, also issued a statement after the hearing.

"The indictment of officer Dane Reister, who was taking legitimate police action is devastatingly wrong. The indictment is nothing more than an accusation and police officers should enjoy the same presumption of innocence as everyone else," the statement said. "Police officers do a tough and dangerous job every day and have earned the benefit of doubt with our blood and sacrifice. No one should come to nay conclusions before all the evidence is heard. This indictment was a a bad decision that sends a bad message to all police officers."

This past June, Reister fired a weapon at an erratically-behaving man who was armed with a knife at a Southwest Portland park.

Police said the suspect, 20-year-old William Kyle Monroe, fled from police up an embankment and wouldn’t respond to commands to surrender.

That’s when Officer Reister fired his "less-lethal" shotgun several times, shooting what was supposed to be beanbag rounds.

Reister said he mistakenly used the wrong ammunition and thought there were only bean-bag rounds loaded in the shotgun, designated as “less-than-lethal.” At least one round was live ammunition. Beanbag and lethal ammunition are the same size but are different colors.

After firing the weapon, it was apparent the man had been hit by shotgun pellets. Officers said they immediately went to the aid of Monroe, who had five shotgun pellets lodged in his hip area.

Police said it was the first time a Portland officer fired at a suspect with a less-lethal weapon loaded with lethal rounds. Police Chief Mike Reese, just over a month into his term as the new chief, went to the scene with Mayor Sam Adams shortly after the incident, called the ammunition mix-up "a terrible mistake."

Following the incident, police said there are protocols already in place that require officers to visually inspect each round before it is loaded into the gun. Lethal rounds are red and blue while less-lethal rounds are yellow and clear.

Police are supposed to load and unload the beanbag rounds at the beginning and end of each shift and they're not supposed carry any lethal rounds on their bodies at all when carrying the beanbag gun, according to police guidelines.

A judge in the case ruled in October that the district attorney could tell the grand jury about a training incident in 2006 when Officer Reister forgot his tear gas gun was loaded and he fired a round that struck another officer in the leg.