Mother of man killed by Tigard police speaks out

(left) Jacob Macduff. (right) Jacob Macduff and his mother, Maria Macduff, are shown together viewing new vehicles in this March 2020 photo. (Courtesy/Maria Macduff)

Maria Macduff describes her son’s 10-year history of mental illness

The mother of Jacob Macduff, the 26-year-old man killed in January by Tigard police, spoke out recently about her son’s death as well as his lengthy history of mental illness.

Maria Macduff, a retired physician who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she was in direct contact with a Tigard Police officer, who asked her to talk to her son just before he was killed on Jan. 6 at the Edgewood Manor Apartments in Tigard. Police say Jacob Macduff locked himself inside a truck registered to his mother after officers arrived at that location in response to 911 calls from residents reporting a possible domestic disturbance. 

But Maria Macduff never did get a chance to talk to Jacob before he was killed by multiple gunshots fired by Tigard Police officer Gabriel Maldonado. 

Police say Jacob Macduff had a knife and struggled with police attempting to arrest him. But those who knew him, including his roommate and mother, say he was suffering from bipolar disorder and was in a psychotic state at the time of his death.

“On January 6 in the late afternoon I received a call from an officer who told me they had just arrived in response to a 911 call on Jacob in response to his behavior problems,” Maria Macduff said. “They told me he had locked himself into his parked truck and refused to come out.” 

Since the truck was registered in Maria Macduff’s name, police used that information to contact and ask her if they could break a window to try and pull Jacob Macduff from inside the vehicle.  

“I agreed and did remind them again that he had a mental illness and to be careful,” Maria Macduff said. “The officer asked me if I could talk to my son and maybe he would comply, which he usually did. He would listen to me. He asked me if I would talk to my son and he was going to hand the phone over to him, so I waited and waited and the phone went dead.” 

She said police offered no other information to her about the situation at the time other than that Jacob Macduff was refusing to comply with orders to get out of the truck. 

“I was hoping they had taken him to the hospital,” Maria Macduff said. “And then about two hours later, I got a call telling me that they had shot him. That they had killed him.” 

Jacob Macduff’s roommate, Theresa Chapin, has also publicly stated that she told police Jacob was suffering from a mental health crisis. But police have so far insisted they acted correctly and they were dealing with a case of domestic violence. 

Maria Macduff, however, offered additional testimony that things were not that simple. Her son, she said, had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a 10-year history of breakdowns and repeated hospitalizations in California. In between those episodes, however, he “always recovered well.” 

“Jacob was functional most of the time, if sometimes a bit confrontational if he got disoriented,” Maria Macduff told Tigard Life. “He could go long periods of time, about two years, without a breakdown.” 

During those periods, she added, he had girlfriends, graduated from high school with good grades, joined the school chess club, held part-time jobs, and went to college for several years. He enjoyed video and card games, surfing and snowboarding, and was an avid artist and woodcarver. 

“Jacob so loved Oregon,” Maria Macduff said. “He was delighted to go live there and was looking forward to more hikes and explorations of the outdoors there, even wanting to build his own home in his newly-adopted home state.” 

In the weeks leading up to his death, however, Jacob had been sending his mother increasingly disjointed messages that seemed all too familiar to her. 

“I knew he was progressing toward another psychotic episode by the text messages that were so bizarre, almost like he was in another universe,” she said. “I couldn’t make any sense of anything. He was a smart guy who graduated from high school. He could write, he could spell, but when these text messages came in, they were so crazy.” 

She knew her son would likely recover from this state if the situation was handled carefully. 

“He always recovered well from his several acute psychotic states, despite his refusal to accept outpatient treatment, often the case with young people afflicted with mental illness,” she said. “Many of them eventually acknowledge their disease and finally seek help, but Jacob did not have the opportunity to mature enough to reach this level of insight.” 

Now, Maria Macduff and her attorney, Scott Levin, are awaiting the results of the criminal investigation into her son’s death. Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton has asked the Oregon Attorney General’s Office to review an investigation done by the Washington County Major Crimes Team, and virtually no information about that investigation has been made public. 

“We’ve had one meeting with the DA, and in that meeting they told us that no details would be forthcoming until a charging decision was made,” Levin said. “The family and Dr. Macduff have been extra patient waiting for the results of this investigation to know what happened and how Jacob was killed.”

Levin has filed a notice of intent to file a tort claim – a lawsuit – against the City of Tigard and the Tigard Police Department. But until the investigation results are made known, he and the Macduff family can do little more. 

“That’s our placeholder, we have to file that before we pursue legal action,” Levin said. “The key question is why did the mental health crisis escalate to the point of using deadly force. And we simply don’t know enough details.”