107 days and still no answers in Macduff killing

(left) Tigard man Jacob Macduff is shown in a photo from March 2020 at Cold Stone Creamery. (right) Jacob Macduff and his mother, Maria Macduff, are shown together viewing new vehicles in this March 2020 photo. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

Mother of Jacob Macduff hires attorney, files notice of claim against City, police

Over 100 days after the death of Tigard resident Jacob Macduff, numerous questions still remain about the circumstances surrounding his shooting in January by a Tigard Police Officer.

Now, Macduff’s mother, Maria Macduff, is pressing to find out more about how her son died and has hired a Portland attorney to file a tort claim against the City of Tigard and the Tigard Police Department to get answers.

“It’s been over 90 days since the police shot and killed my son while he was in mental health crisis,” Maria Macduff said in a statement released to the media. “No one has been able to tell me how or why. I think it’s reasonable – more than reasonable – to expect some answers after all this time.”

Portland attorney Scott Levin filed a tort claim notice with the City of Tigard and the Tigard Police Department on April 13. Levin said the purpose of the notice was to preserve the family’s right to file a legal claim against the police, based on what is eventually revealed about Jacob Macduff’s death.

Jacob Macduff is shown in his earlier years during a baseball game. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

According to Tigard Police, Jacob Ryan Macduff, 26, was killed by police gunfire Wednesday, Jan. 6, as he sat in his pickup truck at the Edgewood Manor apartments near the intersection of Southwest Hall Boulevard and Southwest Bonita Road in Tigard. Police have said Macduff was being sought on domestic violence-related charges and was armed with a knife and actively resisting arrest at the time he was killed by Officer Gabriel Maldonado, who resigned from the department on April 15, according to Tigard Police spokesperson Kelsey Anderson.

Anderson said Maldonado’s resignation was already in the works and was not related to Macduff’s death.

Neighbors in the apartment complex called 911 after hearing a commotion in the apartment Jacob Macduff shared with Tigard woman Theresa Chapin. When police arrived on scene, they were responding to what they thought was a routine domestic violence call. Macduff responded by running and locking himself in his parked pickup truck, where the standoff ensued.

Others in the local community have challenged the official description of events and said that Macduff had been having mental health issues in the days leading up to the shooting. Now, despite authorities’ insistence that it was a simple domestic violence case, his mother has spoken up to confirm that she warned police her son was in the midst of a mental health crisis shortly before he was killed.

Maria Macduff, who is a retired medical doctor living in Santa Barbara, Calif., said in her statement that the truck Jacob Macduff was in at the time of his death was registered to her. This led officers to call her to ask her permission to break a window on the vehicle to attempt to resolve the standoff. She said she cautioned them that he was suffering from a mental health crisis and asked them to be “gentle with my son.”

So far, however, the investigation by the Washington County District Attorney’s Office has dragged on into its fourth month without any details being made public beyond initial police press releases issued in January.

“What steps did they take to defuse the situation?” said Levin. “What protocols did they follow to reach the point where it seemed necessary to shoot and kill a sick young man? Those are some of the things we’d like to find out.”

The only public document to be released so far is Jacob Macduff’s death certificate, which was distributed to the media by his family. It was issued by the Washington County medical examiner and lists the immediate cause of death as “multiple gunshot wounds of torso” and the manner of death as “homicide,” a term that is used to describe a death as being intentionally caused. 

Jacob Macduff’s death certificate lists the cause of his death as multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and says it happened during a confrontation with police. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

Some of the only insight into Macduff’s shooting has been provided by Chapin, who told Tigard Life that she made numerous calls to 911 in the days leading up to Macduff’s death seeking mental health care for him. Her requests were not met, however. And as Macduff’s mental health deteriorated, he began to damage property – and himself, including smashing his head into the walls of Chapin’s apartment.

“He always had a fear of being taken against his will, his mind was not thinking rationally,” Chapin said. “They didn’t understand, the officers didn’t see the Jacob I saw. They weren’t recognizing a mental crisis, but anyone could have spent three minutes with him and tell he’s in a mental crisis. All the signs were clearly there.” 

Despite police claims that they were responding to a domestic violence call, Chapin insisted this was inaccurate and that she was not a victim.

“For them to not see it or be so ignorant to not notice it bothers me,” she said. “This is just going to continue to happen. I have nieces and my son with mental disabilities, and I see it being one of those situations where no one takes care of it.”

Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine told the Tigard Public Safety Advisory Board on April 12 that the investigation was mostly completed but was still waiting on the results of a toxicology report for Macduff.

“We have still not heard anything from the DA’s office on the officer involved shooting,” McAlpine said. “I am told again that the toxicology report, the investigation has been done and has been done for some time and they are just waiting for the toxicology report that comes out of the lab, and that has not been received yet in the DA’s office.”

McAlpine said she has made regular inquiries on the matter.

“Certainly, the DA’s office will communicate with the public, or with a letter to me, and then I can acknowledge that I’ve got their ruling,” she said. “I just want to let everybody know I’m checking in weekly and I’ve not had any updates as of today (April 12).”

Jacob Macduff in this undated photo. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

Additionally, a public records request submitted by Tigard Life in March to the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency – the agency that performs dispatch for all police and fire agencies in the county – has not yet been fulfilled. The request sought recordings and transcripts of 911 calls made on Jan. 6 relating to the Macduff case, as well as recordings and transcripts of police radio traffic in the hours before and after his shooting.

While the agency did respond in writing to that request several weeks later, it said that the District Attorney’s Office would have to approve any release of public records. It also said a medical release from the “patient or responsible party” would be needed before it will release information.

Dispatch Records Specialist Michelle Strange also wrote on March 30 that the DA has imposed a “30-day window” from the time of the request until making a decision on the release of records.