Macduff’s mental health state at time of death remains in question

Jacob Macduff and his mother, Maria Macduff, March 2020.
Jacob Macduff and his mother, Maria Macduff, March 2020. Courtesy/Maria Macduff
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Officers told investigators they did not believe 26-year-old was in crisis

The September 16 decision by an Oregon Department of Justice grand jury to clear former Tigard Police Officer Gabriel Maldonado of any criminal liability in the January shooting death of Tigard resident Jacob Macduff was accompanied by the release of hundreds of pages of interviews with witnesses and police officers involved in the case. 

Tigard man Jacob Macduff is shown here in a photo from March 2020.
Tigard man Jacob Macduff is shown here in a photo from March 2020. Courtesy/Maria Macduff

Those documents cleared up many of the questions that have surrounded the case, which saw Maldonado shoot Macduff eight times as a team of Tigard officers attempted to pull Macduff out of his truck in the parking garage of the Edgewood Manor apartments off Hall Boulevard after they responded to domestic violence report. Maldonado reported seeing Macduff holding a small knife at the time and the grand jury found that he was justified in responding to the threat with deadly force. 

But the issue of Macduff’s mental health at the time of his death, and what the officers on scene knew at the time, remains an open question. 

Macduff’s mother, Maria Macduff, spoke with Tigard Life at length about the case and said she is convinced that police overreacted to her son’s refusal to exit his truck before he was shot. She says that they knew he was having a severe mental health crisis and ignored that information in favor of trying to arrest him as quickly as possible. 

“Police knew what they were dealing with and they didn’t deescalate,” she said, “I just don’t understand it. They had all the necessary information to act appropriately. And why not use pepper spray or rubber bullets if you have to use force? I wish they would think about that before they shot, I wish they would think about their own children before they shot. It was needless and totally reckless, this whole thing.” 

Jacob Macduff was 26 years old when he died and had a lengthy history of mental health problems dating back to when he was a teenager. He was never formally given a diagnosis identifying a specific condition but had been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals on several occasions in California, where he lived before moving to Oregon.

“He always refused treatment and refused medications,” Maria Macduff said. “It was not until he was forced by court to be hospitalized and go into treatment for a few months that he would take it, and then he was fine.”  

But each time Jacob Macduff refused treatment, his condition would inevitably decline. This led to a series of run-ins with police in both California and Nevada, where he lived with his ex-girlfriend Theresa Chapin before the pair moved to Tigard. Macduff was arrested in December 2015 and June 2016 by Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies, first for pushing his sister and later for assaulting a police officer. In both cases, police reports state that a mental health evaluation was requested for Macduff and that his family had reported his mental health issues to responding officers.

After moving to Las Vegas with Chapin in 2019, Macduff was arrested two more times for domestic battery. 

Prior to leaving California, however, Jacob enjoyed two years of stability, according to his mother. During that time, he attended college classes, held down a job and even played sports. 

“For two years he was fine in Santa Barbara,” Maria Macduff said. “During those two years without treatment, he was able to work 30 hours a week and go to city college part time and sustain friendships and engage in sports again. He was so functional.” 

That all fell apart after he left California, however. And after moving north to Oregon in mid-2020, he began to use cannabis once again, which his mother thinks was his way of self-medicating. She also thinks it led directly to the mental breakdowns that had punctuated his young life. 

“The sad thing is Jacob never had the time to reach the maturity to acknowledge his bipolar illness and agree to treatment,” Maria Macduff said. “He probably would have; he was a smart guy and recognized something was off. I think he would have eventually straightened out. But each time he had this breakdown, it was provoked by marijuana; it caused his psychosis.” 

Numerous empty canisters and at least one plastic bag with marijuana flower from a local marijuana dispensary were found in Macduff’s apartment along with smoking utensils. A toxicology report performed after his death found cannabinoids in his blood. He was not under the influence of alcohol or any other drugs at the time, however. 

Police investigators’ reports show that Jacob Macduff’s mental health state was discussed at the time officers responded to the Jan. 6 911 call from his neighbors at the Edgewood Manor reporting a domestic disturbance. It was the fourth 911 call about the situation in the preceding 24 hours.

A report by Detective Megan Townsend of the Hillsboro Police Department, a member of Washington County’s Major Crimes Team, lists the 911 calls at 10:58 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2:06 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2:56 p.m. on Jan. 5, as well as two previous calls on Dec. 14, 2020, and June 13, 2020. In at least three of those calls, Jacob’s mental health crisis was discussed with responding officers.

This call history was known to police on scene at the time of his death, yet officers interviewed after the shooting, including Maldonado, seemed to dismiss the possibility that Macduff was having a mental health crisis.

In a report submitted by Detective Michael Purdy of the Beaverton Police Department, Maldonado is described as saying that Macduff’s actions show, “he was just refusing to get out of the pickup and be arrested. Office Maldonado did not think Macduff was having a mental health crisis. Officer Maldonado talked about Office Will’s conversation with Macduff and that it just seemed like he was refusing to come out of the pickup to be arrested.” 

In another part of the report, Purdy writes: “Officer Maldonado said it was domestic violence call and there was no indication to him that Macduff was in a mental health crisis. Officer Maldonado said, “this was a domestic and a person refusing to go to jail for the crimes they committed.”

This may in part explain why Washington County’s Mental Health Response Team (MHRT), comprised of two teams of sheriff’s deputies and mental health clinicians, was never dispatched to the scene. 

More details may be revealed if the Macduff family chooses to move forward with a civil lawsuit against Maldonado, the City of Tigard, or both. Maria Macduff says a decision on that matter has not yet been made. 

“I don’t know where we go from here,” she said. “My lawyer is regrouping to figure out what to do. The fact that Jacob’s case actually went to a grand jury and the fact that I got to testify, even if only for three minutes, it’s really very significant. If we do pursue a civil lawsuit, it will certainly be to our advantage. I’m glad it’s over so now I know we’ll be able to move forward.” 

Tigard Police, meanwhile, have announced they will form a five-person panel to conduct their own investigation into the incident.

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