An officer-involved shooting at Portland State University is under investigation after a peacemaker was killed.
Friends have identified the man as Jason Washington, who was fatally shot by PSU campus officers Friday after witnesses say he was trying to break up a fight, station KATU reported. Witnesses said Washington had a gun but was only trying to keep the peace when it fell out of his holster during the scuffle.
Family and friends described him as “first and foremost a family man,” a grandfather and Navy veteran.
“He loved his daughters. He loved his granddaughter. He talked about them all the time,” a former co-worker said of the slain man, adding that he was a person you’d want to get to know and spend time with.
The incident unfolded around 1:30 a.m. after nearby officers responded to a street fight not far from the Cheerful Tortoise sports bar in Downtown Portland. After contacting the folks thought to be involved in the disturbance, at least one PSU officer fired his weapon, killing Washington.
Witness Keyaira Smith captured the incident on her cellphone, thinking she was simply recording a fight. Things soon turned tragic, however, as video captured the moment police fired at least 10 shots in rapid succession.
“From there it just kind of took a turn for the worst, and the good guy ended up getting shot,” Smith told KATU News.
“ … I was so distraught that I just saw what was on my phone and tried to keep the peace until it got out of hand, and then I went and hid because I didn’t know who was shooting,” she continued. “I did not know if police were shooting, if he was shooting — and if he was shooting at what angle, and like, what directions it was going.”
Andy Hansen, 29, who was working the late-night shift at a business nearby, told The Oregonian the shooting “sounded like a burst of firecrackers.” Hansen remembered hearing between six and eight shots, followed by loud yelling and screaming.
People who saw the shooting say Washington’s gun fell from his holster during the fight. He reached for it, and that’s when officer’s opened fire.
Witness Zachary Walker, whose friends were in a fight with another man when Washington stepped in, called the shooting unnecessary. He said he never once felt threatened by the man who was just trying to stop the fighting.
“I understand the guy has a gun, and you didn’t know, but still — we didn’t feel threatened with a guy with a gun,” Walker told KATU. “He was a cool guy and nothing was going to happen. We knew he had it, and nothing was going to happen that night.”
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office late confirmed Washington had a concealed carry permit.
The officers involved, Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, have since been placed on administrative leave, a university spokesman said. This is the first officer-involved shooting at PSU.
Over the weekend, family and friends wrote messages on a cement pillar near the scene of the shooting to celebrate Washington’s life.
“I love you Dad! You didn’t deserve this. Tell Papa I miss him too. Kai Loves you!” one message read, apparently from one of his daughters.
“Cousin Jason — We all love you so much and can’t believe you are gone!” read another. “Life won’t be the same without you! See you in Heaven! Watch over us!”
The shooting is still under investigation.