Police: man resisted arrest; punching, Taser proper response

Police: man resisted arrest; punching, Taser proper response »Play Video
This still image taken from security video provided to KATU News by Willamette Week shows police arresting Jason Cox in June 2011. Cox says he was the victim of police brutality and is suing the city of Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland police considered all their options and used appropriate force when they used a Taser and punched a man they were attempting to arrest, a police lieutenant with the police bureau's Internal Affairs Unit said in a letter to the man.

The letter, dated Oct. 28, 2011, was written by Chris Davis in response to a request from the police chief to investigate the arrest of Jason Cox in June 2011. It was released by police Wednesday.

Cox says the officers who arrested him used excessive force. He has filed a lawsuit against the city of Portland for $500,000.

Security camera video from Pallas Club, a Southeast Portland strip club, captured the arrest in the club’s parking lot. Police suspected Cox was driving drunk.

The video was first obtained by KATU’s news partner, Willamette Week, and KATU first aired it Tuesday night during its 11 p.m. newscast. It was later released by police.

In the video, Cox can be seen arguing with officers. Eventually, officers move to spread Cox's legs, but it leads them all to fall to the ground. Before Cox is handcuffed, his attorney, Greg Kafoury, says his client moves his arms forward to protect himself.

That leads to a struggle with officers looking to regain control.

One officer administers a series of Taser shocks while another officer begins to punch Cox in the face a total of six times with his left hand.
In the Internal Affairs letter, Davis said the video footage is consistent with what the arresting officers said happened and that Cox's actions indicated he was going to physically resist arrest. Those actions included "furrowing" his brow, not complying with police commands, arguing with police, "assuming a fighting posture" and "clenching (his) fists."

Davis wrote that Cox put his right hand beneath his body, which not only was a sign he was resisting arrest but that he might have been reaching for a weapon.

The officer who punched Cox, Robert Bruders, said he hit Cox after he had warned him to put his hand behind his back and that he "paused between strikes to warn (him) again."

Davis wrote Bruders' account was consistent with what the video showed.

Akin Blitz, a Portland attorney who advises police on use-of-force issues analyzed the security camera video for KATU News.

"He clearly put up a significant amount of resistance," Blitz said from a conference in Bend via Face Time on Wednesday. "Like it or not, the job of the police officer is to control and overcome the resistance and to control and to use objectively reasonable force in doing so. And that's what's going on here."

But Kafoury says the video speaks for itself.

"The police report indicates that the guy is fighting them, kicking at them, resisting in every form. And what you see is a helpless guy, and his face just getting pounded by police officers," Kafoury said during an interview Tuesday night. "There is no reason for this guy to be hurt at all."

Portland police decline to speak in depth about the case because of the lawsuit. But they do say the officers involved were cleared by the Internal Affairs investigation and one done by the Independent Police Review Commission.

Video edits and inconsistencies

Police released a longer version of the security camera video on Wednesday, which is 13 minutes long.

There are notable jumps in the video. The camera is motion-activated, so it starts and stops.

The time on the video leaps from 22:23:35 (10:23:35) to 22:25:28. That's roughly two minutes that's unaccounted for.

Another gap is at 22:27:48. The video skips ahead seven seconds to 22:27:55.

A third gap is during the struggle between Cox and officers. There's nearly a full minute that is missing and it is unknown what happened during that time – that's between 22:28:27 and 22:29:34.

There are also differences in what the bureau said happened and the officers' accounts of the incident.

For example, one report says that before Cox was hit, "Ofc. (Sarah) Kerwin had already deployed Taser, which had not been effective up to that point." But Kerwin's statement says she used the Taser after the first blow had been struck.

The bureau says "Ofc. Bruders wrote in his report that he struck Cox after Cox had been warned. ..." But Bruders himself says he hit first and warned second.

Side by side: On the right is the mug shot from when Cox was arrested the night of the incident.

KATU News reporters Patrick Preston and Dan Tilkin contributed to this report.

Watch the video provided by the Portland Police Bureau:

 Watch the video given to the Willamette Week: