Portland Police Correct Statement On Gun Seizures

Photo: File/KATU

At a news conference on Monday where Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled a proposed ordinance to tighten regulations on demonstrations where violence is expected Portland Police said guns were seized from a group of people in a parking garage prior to a demonstration on August 4th.

On Tuesday, the Portland Police Bureau corrected the statement:

The Police Bureau has been receiving many questions regarding information shared in yesterday's press conference regarding police contact with protesters who had weapons and were parked in a downtown parking garage. 

On August 4, 2018, as the Police Bureau prepared for a planned demonstration and counter-demonstration in Waterfront Park, officers witnessed several people parking their cars and gathering on the top floor of a parking garage, located approximately three blocks away from the where the event was to be held at the Salmon Springs Fountain. 

Officers contacted a group of approximately 20-30 people on the west side of the parking structure. Some of the individuals were putting on padded clothing, helmets and were gathering weapons. Police personnel reminded the group what they could not bring any weapons to the park. Police watched them place items that could be used as weapons, such as make-shift sticks and signs with sticks, into their vehicles and some of them kept these items and said they would not enter the park. The group eventually departed the garage on foot. 

Meanwhile, four individuals were located on the northeast side of the top floor of the garage. The sergeant involved contacted them and they confirmed they had three rifles and had concealed weapon permits. The men told the sergeant they were going to stay at the garage and act as a quick extraction team in case any of their group was injured during the demonstration. The men were compliant and allowed the sergeant to inspect the weapons. All three firearms were in cases (one was disassembled) and none were loaded. In consultation with the City Attorney's Office, the sergeant told the men to store the weapons in a locked storage container in the back of the pickup and place the ammo away from the weapons in a different part of the truck. 

After further review it has been determined that no firearms were seized or taken as safe keeping from the individuals in the parking garage, as police did not have lawful authority to do so. No arrests were made as no laws were broken. 

Portland Police Officers continued to monitor the individuals for some time during this event. 

Based on information learned during the contact with the individuals, there was no imminent danger to the public and no police reports were written regarding this activity. 

However, the Police Bureau is becoming increasingly concerned that people from these demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are talking about arming themselves on social media and officers have observed firearms in the crowds. Participants are suiting up in body armor and weapons of all kinds, including firearms, bats, chemicals, explosives and make-shift weapons are being brought to these protests. When the law allows and it is safe to do so, officers have seized or taken into safekeeping, weapons they have observed in the possession of demonstrators. We have been working with the Mayor's Office, City Attorney's office and District Attorney to seek additional laws or tools that would provide police with authority to help facilitate a safer environment for participants and non-participants at frequent demonstrations. 

At this particular protest, officers located and seized or witnessed multiple weapons throughout the day, including knives, bats, flagpoles, rocks, smoke bombs, firework mortars, unknown chemical agents, bottles, items from a slingshot, and other projectiles. 

The intent of law enforcement at all protests/demonstrations is to provide a safe environment for all participants, non-participants, and community members while ensuring the peaceful exercise of the First Amendment. The Police Bureau actively reaches out to organizers prior to any planned protest/march in the hope to help them plan for a peaceful and successful event. 

Prior to the August 4 protest, and during the event, the Police Bureau informed the public repeatedly via news releases, social media and sound truck of some officers' observations and the following city codes and Oregon Revised Statues: 

*Per Portland City Code, it is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm in public unless you have a valid Oregon concealed handgun license or as specified in the code. See https://www.portlandoregon.gov/citycode/article/332592 

*The City of Portland has specific conduct rules and laws that apply to parks: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/citycode/?c=28627 including a specific prohibition on the possession of weapons in parks: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/citycode/article/641629 

*Oregon has NO concealed handgun license reciprocity with any other state, and it is a crime to carry a concealed handgun in Oregon unless you have and present for inspection a valid OREGON concealed handgun license (Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 166.250 and ORS 166.291: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/ors/ors166.html 

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