PORTLAND — A man shot by Portland police on Interstate 84 was carrying a replica semi-automatic pistol, and an ambulance had taken him for a mental-health evaluation the night before the incident, the authorities said Tuesday.
Denorris McClendon, 27, was booked into the Multnomah County Jail after his release from the hospital. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of menacing, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.
Labor Day travelers told emergency dispatchers a man later identified as McClendon was walking on an I-84 offramp with a gun and it appeared he was trying to carjack motorists. The man allegedly pointed the weapon at responding police and ran through freeway traffic.
Officer Michael Honl fired a shotgun blast that grazed McClendon in the hip. According to police, the wounded man went into a residential neighborhood and collapsed in the street, pleading with officers to kill him before eventually giving up.
Police seized McClendon’s gun and revealed Tuesday it was a fake.
Also on Tuesday, police said McClendon’s grandmother, Johnetta Burkett, called Sunday night to report that her grandson was suffering from a paranoid delusion. She said he had spent much of the day swinging a wooden dowel at shrubbery in her yard, looking for FBI agents. Moreover, she told police that McClendon had broken his arms a few days earlier and removed the casts.
McClendon agreed to be taken by ambulance for mental-health treatment. At the hospital, however, he rejected the recommendation of a doctor to stay overnight, his grandmother said in an interview Tuesday. Police said he took methamphetamine sometime after he left the hospital and went to I-84.
Burkett said McClendon has suffered from depression for years, and he went downhill after his mother died a month ago. Burkett said she called officers to her home many times in the past week. She said her grandson wanted to die at the hands of police because he was tired and “just gave up.”
“He just wanted to hurt himself,” Burkett said. “He couldn’t carjack anybody. He doesn’t even know how to drive.”
The incident happened three days after a federal judge accepted a settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Portland on reforms intended to improve the way police deal with mentally ill people. The Justice Department found during an investigation that Portland police engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force when dealing with such residents.
Burkett said the police did a “wonderful” job and praised them for being cautious with her grandson.
“They were very much aware that he suffering a mental-health crisis,” she said. “I don’t know who shot him — and I really don’t care — but I believe a lot of the officers who were there yesterday probably had been involved coming to my house, trying to help with him over this past week.”