Two officers are facing charges after one was accused of vandalizing a home and terrorizing a family over a Black Lives Matter flag, and the second drove his fellow officer straight home instead of facing consequences
On Oct. 31, Forest Grove, Oregon resident Mirella Castaneda and her husband, Pablo Weimann, were awakened by the sound of their truck alarm and allegedly saw Forest Grove police officer Steven Teets, off-duty at the time, in their driveway around 12:30 a.m., banging on a Black Lives Matter sign that hung over the couple’s garage. According to Castaneda, he then made his way to their front door and began kicking and pounding it.
Teets was allegedly “highly intoxicated” during the time of the attack.
“I have never encountered anyone as aggressive and angry as this guy,” Castaneda told Pamplin Media Group. “He was scary. … This guy was violent.”
As a result of the incident, Teets faces charges of second-degree criminal mischief and second-degree disorderly conduct. He has been placed on administrative desk duty since November 2020.
According to his Nov. 10 indictment, he “did unlawfully and intentionally damage holiday decorations, outdoor lighting, and other items of personal property” belonging to the couple. It also reads he “did unlawfully and recklessly create a risk of … alarm” by engaging in “violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior.”
On Thursday, May 6, a second officer, Bradley Schuetz, was indicted by a grand jury on one count of first-degree official misconduct for driving Teets home after the attack, instead of placing him under arrest. He was arrested, cited and released, police said.
By failing to arrest Teets at the time, Schuetz “prevented the investigation from happening,” said Beaverton police Sgt. Kevin MacDonald, whose police department was asked to investigate Schuetz’s involvement by Forest Grove PD.
“We came up short in some areas,” Forest Grove sheriff Pat Garrett said of the department’s response. “We accept that. And we are in the process of learning how we’re going to do that better.”
Forest Grove police chief Henry Reimann expressed his hesitance at sharing too many details about the investigation, but maintains that “transparency is a key component of our policing plan in Forest Grove.”
He added, “I also understand that there is substantial public interest in the status of the investigations into the incident that occurred on Halloween night, including how members of the Forest Grove Police Department responded to an incident involving an off-duty Forest Grove police officer,” reads the statement. “Investigations into that incident are under review by a number of outside public agencies and any information the City has at this moment is unverified and incomplete. Sharing such information at this time (or rushing to make decisions based on partial information) could do more harm than good and could potentially hinder the City’s ability to address these important issues.”
In his message, Chief Reimann uses the recent reinstatement of Atlanta officer Garrett Rolfe “despite the fact that he is still under criminal investigation and prosecution for Mr. Brooks’ death,” as an example of the outcome he’s attempting to avoid.
“To highlight the importance of due process and the need to follow state law and city policy prior to any employment decision, I recently became aware of a situation in Atlanta involving an officer-involved shooting,” it reads. “In that case, the officer charged with shooting a citizen, Rayshard Brooks, was fired immediately after the incident. The officer challenged his termination on due process grounds and a review panel agreed with the officer and reinstated him, despite the fact that he is still under criminal investigation and prosecution for Mr. Brooks’ death. I’m committed to due process to avoid a similar outcome, if, in fact, discipline is warranted.”
Castaneda has since filed a lawsuit against the Forest Grove Police Department, claiming that police allegedly “worked in concert, either intentionally, or subconsciously due to implicit bias, to deprive Ms. Castaneda of her Constitutional rights” during their investigation of the events that took place on Halloween night.
Teets’ attorney, Derek Ashton, issued a statement saying, “Steven is a 10-year Army veteran whose service included combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, he was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant, earned a bachelor’s degree, and became a Forest Grove police officer. These are stressful times for the strongest among us. Steven is addressing a personal issue for which he deserves support and understanding rather than condemnation.”
Teets’ trial has been scheduled for this summer.