DA refers Macduff death investigation to Attorney General’s Office

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton.

Washington County DA expresses concerns about investigation into killing of Tigard man

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton has asked the Oregon Attorney General’s Office to review an investigation into the killing of Tigard man Jacob Macduff. 

Barton issued a press release on May 3 announcing that he has formally requested the Oregon Attorney General’s Office to review the investigation conducted by the Washington County Major Crimes Team – the results of which were apparently submitted to Barton’s office on April 27 but remain under wraps.

Jacob Macduff. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

Macduff was shot and killed by former Tigard Police Officer Gabriel Maldonado on Jan. 6, 2021, during an encounter outside the Edgewood Manor apartments off Southwest Hall Boulevard in Tigard. Police have said Macduff was being sought on alleged domestic violence-related charges, had a knife, and was actively resisting arrest at the time he was killed. But the circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be made public, and those who knew Macduff best have insisted that he was suffering from a severe mental health crisis at the time he was killed. 

Barton’s press release was made public alongside a copy of the letter sent to Michael Slauson, the Chief Counsel of the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice, in which Barton states: “Your review of the evidence and application of HB 4301 to that evidence will provide the independent evaluation I believe is necessary, given the concerns I have developed regarding this incident.” 

Notably, House Bill 4301 is a new state law approved by the legislature last year addressing police use of deadly force. The law requires that police may use deadly force only against people “who pose a genuine risk of causing death or serious physical injury,” should consider de-escalation whenever possible prior to using any degree of force and, “whenever reasonably possible,” give a verbal warning before force is used. 

“I think it’s a significant development,” said Scott Levin, an attorney representing the Macduff family. “Our position has always been that the family doesn’t know exactly what happened, and we still don’t have that information. It’s been over 100 days now and hopefully this is a good development in getting that information.”  

He added that it is still difficult to tell what these latest developments mean for the Macduff family. Until the results of the investigation are made public, it will be impossible to lay out a legal strategy or make any other type of plans. 

Barton said in his statement that the Attorney General’s Office will review the findings of the Major Crimes Team and make a determination “regarding criminal responsibility for the incident.” The DA’s office has declined to comment further on the case. 

Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said at the City’s May 10 Public Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) meeting that she wanted to be very careful not to misrepresent her discussions with the District Attorney. But she said it appears that the DA is being cautious in his application of the new requirements surrounding the use of force by police that became law this year with the enactment of HB 4301. 

“That law came into effect on Jan. 1 and our shooting was on Jan. 6,” McAlpine said. “So, with the addition of reviews of use of force, interpreting the new law, he said, was challenging and he was looking to the Attorney General to also review it and ask for assistance.”  

In other developments, Maldonado resigned his position in Tigard April 15 to take a job with the Port of Portland Police. But he was first placed on administrative leave and then terminated by the Port on May 19, after it was found that he did not tell Port background investigators that he was still under investigation in the Macduff shooting. 

“We regret that the status of the investigation wasn’t brought to light during our hiring process,” Port of Portland spokesperson Kama Simonds said in a statement. “If we had known the Washington County investigation was open, we would not have offered him the position.”

Public records obtained by Oregon Public Broadcasting also show that Maldonado failed background investigations or interviews with five different police agencies between 1997 and 2006, when he was hired by the City of Tigard. Those include the cities of Portland, Beaverton and Gresham, Oregon State Police and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. He also reportedly failed a background investigation in 2019 after applying for a position with the University of Oregon Police in Eugene.