PORTLAND — A federal fugitive shot and killed by officers outside a Portland hospital was armed with a telephone receiver handle that he had stolen from the hospital and had broken to simulate a handgun, authorities said.
Sgt. Pete Simpson, a Portland police spokesman, said Merle Hatch used the 8-inch piece of black plastic to twice threaten security at Portland Adventist Medical Center before confronting officers in the parking lot late Sunday.
At a news conference late Wednesday afternoon, police showed an image of Hatch displaying the handle like a gun and also released a cellphone video from a witness that captured Hatch’s confrontation with officers.
“Come on,” Hatch yelled to the officers who, police said, were 65 yards away. “I ain’t gonna draw.”
After getting no response from his taunts, Hatch shouted: “OK. I’m going to come to you. I’m coming to you then, pig.”
Hatch ran toward the officers, ignored commands to stop and died in a burst of gunfire. Police have yet to say how many shots were fired, but three officers fired rounds and Hatch died from multiple wounds. Hatch was 14 yards away when officers shot, Simpson said.
Though the video plays like a classic “suicide by cop” scenario, investigators declined to characterize it as such.
“I think everyone is going to have their own interpretation,” Assistant Police Chief Donna Henderson said.
The case will soon be presented to a Multnomah County grand jury for review, as is standard in Portland police shootings.
Hatch, 50, was released from federal prison earlier this month and was considered an escapee because he failed to report to a halfway house in Colorado, the state where he robbed a bank in 2004.
A U.S. Bureau of Prisons vehicle delivered him from the medium-security facility at Sheridan to the airport in Portland for a Feb. 12 flight to Denver. But Hatch skipped the flight and, according to police, robbed two banks in the days before he went to the hospital.
Authorities, citing privacy laws, have yet to say what problem led Hatch to seek medical attention.
Portland police have been under increased scrutiny since federal investigators determined last year that officers have engaged in a pattern of excessive force against people with mental illness. Simpson said Hatch had no documented history of mental illness.