DA refers Macduff death investigation to Attorney General’s Office

    Washington County DA expresses “concerns” about 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, stating that he has “concerns” about the incident.

    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.

    Macduff was shot to death by 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 actively resisting arrest at the time he was killed. But the circumstances surrounding his death have not yet been 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.” 

    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.

    Under Washington County’s plan for investigations of the use of deadly force by police, a referral of this nature means an Assistant Attorney General will be named as a Special Deputy District Attorney. This structure was created following the 2007 passage by the state legislature of Senate Bill 111, which required the creation of local, comprehensive protocols to address the use of deadly physical force by law enforcement officers. Washington County was the first county in Oregon to develop a plan in line with that law, which came a little over a year after the 2006 shooting death of Tigard teenager Lukus Glenn by Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies and a Tigard Police Officer.

    In the Macduff case, the officer who killed him was reinstated by the Tigard Police Department and placed back on active duty before resigning his position last month to take a job with the Port of Portland Police. He has since been placed on administrative leave by the Port, pending the results of the investigation into Macduff’s shooting, according to Port of Portland spokesperson Kama Simonds.

    Levin said it’s difficult to tell what this latest development means 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.

    “Our questions still remain all the same,” Levin said. “How does a young man in a mental health crisis who has barricaded himself in a truck, how does this end up with him being shot several times by the police? It doesn’t make any sense to us, but we don’t have any information.”

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    Josh Kulla is a writer and photographer with experience reporting on city, county and state government, as well as photographing news, sports and events, across the Portland metropolitan area. In his spare time, he can be found photographing Northwest landscapes. He can be reached at [email protected]