Portland Sergeant during precinct roll call: ‘If you come across a Black person, just shoot them’

A Portland police officer in riot gear in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)

This week, Portland residents found out just how derogatory and racially charged the remarks made by Portland police Sgt. Gregg Lewis had to be in order to get him fired.

According to OregonLive, Wednesday, City Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty quoted Lewis’ comments on the record with the hopes of putting a stop to a proposed settlement that would allow Lewis to be reinstated.

Hardesty reported that on Feb. 12, 2017, while speaking to officers at a Central Precinct roll call, Lewis instructed those in attendance to place civil holds and taken to a detoxification center if any individual suspected of public intoxication is found inebriated in public or in public garages.

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Seems fine, until he then playfully added, “If you come across a Black person, just shoot them.’’

To add insult to injury, Lewis’ made the racist quip only three days after the fatal police shooting of a young, Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes. Hardesty says that incident makes it clear that Lewis is unfit to serve the community and should instead retire with back pay to ensure an arbitrator couldn’t overturn his firing and put him back to work.

Hardesty’s disclosure and vocal opposition to the settlement convinced Mayor Ted Wheeler to delay a vote until next week and to also release the full termination letter that Lewis received.

According to the letter, dated Jan. 12, 2018, approximately 16 officers and three other sergeants were present at the 4 p.m. roll call when the disparaging comment was made.

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The letter also reveals that officers interviewed recalled other problematic directives given by the sergeant. In one account, Lewis allegedly told officers to “be smart’’ about who they removed from inside parking garages for being intoxicated.

According to the officer present, Lewis informed them all to think twice before detaining successful business men, stating “If you come across a guy in a suit and tie that came downtown and had a little too much to drink … he’s probably not the guy you want to detox straight out of the garage. He will most likely sue you. If it’s a homeless guy, you will probably be safe. I doubt he‘s going to sue you.”

“Officers began talking about this statement, and then I heard Sergeant Lewis state, ‘Well, let’s just go out and kill all the Black people,'” continues the letter. “The officers appeared shocked and astonished. There was some uncomfortable laughter throughout the room, but most officers were quiet. This brought roll call to an end.”

“This person sworn to protect us made clear that he views certain types of people expendable in our society,” said Hardesty in a prepared statement. “I thank his fellow officers for reporting this heinous comment and elevating it as a punishable offense,” she said. “What Mr. Lewis said makes my stomach turn.”

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