On January 6, 2021, Jacob Macduff, a 26-year-old young man that I knew well, was shot and killed by the Tigard, Oregon police for the crime of being mentally ill and refusing to leave his truck. Jacob was a delightful young man; gentle, intelligent, perceptive, artistically talented, and never known to be violent, but unfortunately subject to brief episodes of psychosis. In the grip of intermittent psychotic episodes, his behavior could become bizarre, but even at its worst, there was no history of violence towards other people. The police had been called to his residence several times in the five days prior to his death because of his increasingly loud, bizarre behavior and because he had destroyed some property. They knew they were dealing with a mentally disturbed young man. They were informed of this issue within the hour before they killed him by talking with his mother, Maria Macduff, a physician, who gave them the synopsis of his previous mental health history and begged them to treat him gently. Shortly before the shooting, she agreed to talk with Jacob by phone from California, where she lives, and expected the police to attempt to make that connection.
When the police arrived on the scene on January 6, they found Jacob sitting in his truck with the doors locked, refusing to exit at their command. They knew that Jacob did not have a firearm in his possession. The two officers called for backup, and four other officers arrived. Police now surround Jacob, and his truck is barricaded by police cars, so there is no possibility of his escaping in his truck, parked in a basement lot. At this point, for reasons that the Tigard police have yet to explain, they decided that it was necessary to remove Jacob from his truck forcibly – Right now! No further talking. No attempt to have mom talk to him. Not even a plan that would have involved explaining to Jacob what they were doing as they broke into his vehicle. No! They planned a sudden all-out assault consisting of Officer Gabriel Maldonado breaking the driver’s side window. What was their rush? Angry at having their authority defied? Late for dinner? I want an answer. And I know his mother would too.
The execution of their plan proved worse than the plan itself. For reasons never explained by the police, Officer Mastrich, stationed in front of the vehicle, fired three shotgun beanbag rounds through the windshield just as Maldonado broke the side window. This was not part of the plan. With the window next to his head shattered and his windshield blown open by beanbag rounds right in front of him, glass shards flying everywhere, Jacob did what anyone, psychotic or not, would probably do. He tried to get out of the way. Maldonado, stationed next to the driver’s side window, within the next 2 seconds (as demonstrated on the police dash cam video), begins firing at Jacob, hitting him four times in the back out of five shots. He later claimed he thought that by ducking away, Jacob was reaching into the back seat for a weapon. What weapon? Had they feared a firearm was in the vehicle, would they have been standing next to it talking to him? Would they have attempted the plan that they had concocted? Any non- firearm weapon would represent no threat to them with Jacob still locked in his car. So why was it necessary to kill him? He was threatening no one. He was a threat to no one! And he wasn’t in a position to escape. Then on the video, Maldonado screams, “show me your hands,” for about 20 seconds, and when Jake doesn’t do so (it may be hard to do that when you’ve just been shot four times), he shoots Jake three more times.
The summary is short and ugly. What was the rush, and what was the threat that justified killing an unarmed mentally ill young man? At best, this incident demonstrates a level of incompetence that is breathtaking. Policing is a difficult and sometimes dangerous profession, but you’ve got to be able to do better than this. It is a matter of public record that several other departments refused Maldonado before Tigard hired him. This incident, I believe, demonstrates that he should never have been, and never should again, be given a badge and a gun. However, without a national police registry, there is no way of letting other jurisdictions know what he did. Thank your police unions for that.
Why the Oregon State Attorney General refuses to release the grand jury proceedings that exonerated officer Maldonado, we have no way of knowing. It certainly raises the question of how aggressively her office presented its case. I am a medical doctor and psychiatrist, not a lawyer, but I consider what happened to Jacob to be, at the very least, a negligent homicide. Perhaps it is time for the Federal DOJ to look into this. Jacob is every bit as dead as George Floyd, and Jacob had civil rights too.
Even though the insurance company settled for $3.8 million rather than risking a trial (strongly suggesting that they knew something indefensible had occurred), the Tigard police continue to maintain that there was no “wrongdoing” in this incident. Immediately after Jacob’s death, Tigard police started to circle the wagons, pointing out they had found a knife in his truck, implying that he had been a threat. In her only letter to Maria Macduff, not sent until almost a year after Jacob’s death and at a time when ulterior motives such as settlement negotiations might have motivated her compassion, Chief McAlpine would only “regret” that “we did not protect or serve Jacob.” The irony of who he appeared to have needed protection from seems lost on the Chief. Where is the accountability?
Where is the outrage, Tigard?