Keaton Otis killing… did Burley shoot himself?
AFTER officers of Portland’s Hotspot Enforcement Action Team, HEAT, killed Keaton Otis just off the city’s main Grand Avenue, they claimed their victim had fired first.
They claimed Keaton Otis fired twice and hit Officer Chris Burley in the thighs.
That claim has since been the principal barrier to getting justice for Keaton Otis (right). He shot first, so, of course police returned fire… 32 bullets in seven seconds. It is the perfect cover story.
But many have had doubts about the claim. Much of the evidence just doesn’t seem to add up.
Now, there is further evidence casting doubt that Keaton Otis shot Officer Burley. In fact, there is a case to say Officer Burley shot himself by accident. It lends further support to the demand that the case of HEAT and their shooting of Keaton Otis needs to be re-opened and investigated by an independent authority.
First, what has long been known from documents in the public domain, but little publicized:
* Only one bullet allegedly fired at Officer Burley was found, not two. Although it supposedly had passed through Officer Burley’s flesh it had no traces of blood on it. It had been fired from a copper casing, but there were no traces of copper on any of the officer’s clothing.
The gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis, a Taurus Millenium, contained gold-cased rounds. The police Glock-17s fired silver-cased rounds. 32 silver cases were recovered by investigating detectives. No gold cases were found at the scene, either in the Corolla or outside. Crime scene diagram legend
* The i-phone video filmed by a witness shows Officer Burley falling after the police open fire, not before or even as police open fire. At the Grand Jury investigating detective Kammerer talked jurors through a police-edited version of the video — the witness who filmed the video was asked to leave. He clearly described, twice, Burley falling after the shooting starts. He points to officer Pat Murphy fleeing as his fellow officers open fire, and then tells the jurors, “Yeah, that’s Officer Murphy. Officer Burley, right here, then you see him, falls to the ground.” Grand Jury, p143, line
The police-edited, zoomed-in tape is replayed. Detective Klammerer again narrates: “This is Officer Murphy on the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Burley, you will see him backing up, tall guy, right there, backing up. That’s him right there. And then he falls down after being shot.” The police-edited version of the video is no longer available.
* Against all police protocol, Burley was not taken to hospital in an ambulance, but was taken in the back of one of the HEAT cars by two other HEAT officers, Officers Foote and Murphy. Why? Was it just that he needed urgent care as they claimed, or did the HEAT officers need to be alone for another reason?
* One other officer was also shot. Officer Jim DeFrain was hit in the lower abdomen and a round burn mark left on his skin. There has never been any claim that he was shot by Keaton Otis. The most likely cause was flying fragments of bullets, ricocheting off Keaton Otis’s car and the wall behind the car. Bullet fragments were found all around the scene and behind the shooters. One bullet was found underneath the back-hoe on the opposite side of the road. A credible theory has always been that Officer Burley was shot by a ricocheting bullet.
* The gun allegedly used by Keaton Otis has never been linked to him. No evidence has been put forward to show that he ever touched the gun. There is no indication that the gun was tested for palm or finger prints. The gun had been stolen in 2006, but never reported stolen. The first time its owner, an elderly gentleman living in Gresham, knew it was missing was when police traced his ownership after the killing of Keaton Otis.
* There is no evidence that the mysterious Crown Royal bag, allegedly used by Keaton Otis to carry the gun, was ever tested for residues or drugs. Indeed, the bag appears to have disappeared.
* No one claims to have seen the gun till it was found by detectives an hour after the shooting, sitting in the middle of the driver’s seat. All, but one, of the officers of HEAT specifically deny seeing the gun, even though they all claim Keaton Otis shot at them at close range and they returned fire. None can describe the gun.
* Close associates of the HEAT officers – some of the most notoriously violent officers in Portland – converged quickly on the scene, taking control of Keaton Otis’s body and also access to the car. They argued a call to the Strategic Emergency Response Team should be cancelled. It was. Numerous officers, close friends of the HEAT crew who had been with them earlier in the day before the killing, had access to the car to plant the gun. The video shows at least one officer leaning inside the car.
* Keaton Otis was driving his mother’s car. She had been very concerned about his state of health and frame of mind and closely monitored him. It is hard to believe Keaton Otis could have hidden or kept a gun in his mother’s car.
All that, and much more, can be found in the Grand Jury transcript as well as interviews with witnesses and police officers.
The new evidence is based on examining the damage to the wall officers used as a back-stop plus evidence contained in reports by detectives.
First, detective interviews of officers on the night of the shooting seem to open an answer to one key question:
If Officer Burley had shot himself, why did his weapons (a police-issue Glock-17 and a personal back-up Glock-26 semi-automatic) both have full magazines when examined by detectives later? If he had fired one of his weapons, the magazines should have been less than full. But all the magazines he was carrying (at least four) were all full. If his magazines were full, he could not have shot himself.
But what if he had shot the gun and then the rounds had later been replaced? Evidence in detective interviews indicate, at least, this was a possibility. Opportunity and access was a possibility.
Contrary to standard police procedure, Officer Burley was transported to the hospital in the back of one of HEAT’s unmarked cars, not an ambulance. The car was driven by HEAT Officer Ryan Foote with Officer Pat Murphy riding in the passenger seat.
But when Officer Foote’s magazines (three, each with a capacity of 17 rounds) were examined by detectives Slater and Kammerer, there were 16 rounds in each of two magazines and 15 in the third magazine reports by detectives, page 22. Unlike all the other officers involved, he alone — apart from the the three shooters — had less than full magazines.
His magazines were four rounds short of their total capacity.
Detective Kammerer wrote in his report: “I asked Officer Foote if he maintained full capacity in all of his magazines, and Officer Foote told me he did not keep his magazines fully loaded due to a recommendation he received from his firearms instructor when he was at the range. Officer Foote told me he normally kept sixteen rounds in two of the magazines and fifteen rounds in the third magazine.” reports by detectives, page 22
Further, Officer Burley’s police-issue Glock was not kept with him at Emmanuel hospital, where he was taken for treatment, but was put in the trunk of the unmarked Crown Victoria slick-top used to take him to the hospital reports by detectives, page 25.
His duty belt with his police-issue weapon was in the trunk of the car where it was found by Detective Kammerer later. The belt must have been placed in the trunk before Officer Burley arrived at Emmanuel hospital or as he was being taken into the ER as testimony from Officer Chastain reveals.
Officer Chastain had been responding to the code 3, driving south when he responded to a call for a car to give code 3 escort — full lights and sirens — to the unmarked car carrying Officer Burley (officers complained the driving public seemed unaware that the unmarked car with flashing lights was in fact a police car).
Officer Chastain helped Officer Burley out of the car and into the ER. He told detectives that while Officer Burley was on the gurney he seemed anxious to have his personal back-up Glock-26 removed from its holster and secured — most likely from his ABA brand body armor vest. detective reports by detectives, page 62
Officer Chastain removed the Glock-26 and a Smith & Wesson folding knife. But in his account he makes no mention of Officer Burley’s police-issue belt or the police-issue Glock-17. reports by detectives, page 57
Officer Chastain secured the Glock-26 and knife in the trunk of his own police car, not in the trunk of the unmarked car. Neither the unmarked HEAT car nor Officer Chastain’s car appear to have had a formal police guard placed on them for at least an hour.
There clearly was opportunity to re-load Officer Burley’s magazines, for both the Glock-17 and the Glock-26.
Also, there is evidence that officers were talking about the possibility that Officer Burley had fired his weapon, despite protocol insisting officers do not converse about incidents.
Officers Stradley and Gradwahl were detailed — as Traumatic Incident Committee support — to sit with HEAT Officer Ryan Foote in the ER’s bereavement room. Detective Weinstein, part of the investigation team, was also in the hospital. He visited Officer Foote in the bereavement room at 19:21 to offer his support.
Minutes later Officer Stradley left the bereavement room to speak with Detective Weinstein. The detective wrote in his report: “Officer Stradley told me he did not think Officer Burley had discharged his duty weapon. At the time, Officer Stradley and I were speaking just outside of Officer Burley’s hospital room.” Detective reports, page 60
How did Officer Stradley know?
Portland Police Association president, Officer Dobler, was also outside Officer Burley’s hospital room.
Examination of the brick wall used by the officers as a back-stop also, at least, raises the credible possibility that Officer Burley did shoot himself.
Most of the damage is low down on the wall, where it would be expected.
However, two bullets hit the wall high up: One impact was 55 inches above the pavement (marked orange in the picture, right), and between two windows of the apartment behind the wall. Eighteen inches to the left, and the bullet would have gone flying through a window into the apartment.
A second bullet hit the wall 77 inches above the pavement, two feet higher and to the right and inches away from the window to the right. reports by detectives, crime scene legend + diagram
If Officer Pat Murphy — standing alone on the driver’s side of the Corolla — had not run crouching for cover as his fellow officers opened fire, he could easily have been shot in the upper chest, neck or head by these high-flying bullets.
Examination of the 1 inch by 13/8 inch oval hole left by the 55-inch impact seems to indicate that bullet gouged into the wall coming from the left and from below as you face the wall. The higher bullet impact — at 6ft 5 inches off the pavement — can only have come from below. Most of the damage to the wall from the other impacts is around a foot off the pavement.
If the high-flying shots were fired by either Officers Cody or DeFrain — the officers standing by the driver-side car door firing down into Keaton Otis — they would have needed to fire over the Toyota.
Officer Foote and Sergeant Livingston were to their left, further towards the front of the Toyota. If they had fired and hit the wall between the two windows, their aim would have been wildly off. To have hit Keaton Otis they would have needed to fire almost south through the car’s windshield. But both say they didn’t fire their guns.
Officer Chris Burley was standing to the left and behind Officers Cody and DeFrain, and, according to his own testimony, was moving backwards. If Officer Chris Burley had fired the shots, they would have gone over the Toyota’s hood or windshield before hitting the wall from the left. The diagram (right) is based on the coordinates of the profile of a Toyota Corolla and the height of the lower of the two high-flying bullets.
Officer Chris Burley says he never fired a shot.
But someone fired those two high-flying shots. If it wasn’t officers Berne, DeFrain or Polis (firing from the rear of the Toyota, northwards), who did fire the high-flying shots?
The surface of the road all around where Keaton Otis was parked is in poor quality (picture, right, below). It has been roughly repaired and there are many holes and deep cracks to catch someone moving backwards.
What if… Officer Chris Burley actually did have his gun drawn and, moving backwards, also stumbled? What if… in falling he fired off a high shot or even two high shots… and landing in the road his semi-automatic Glock police issue — or the Glock 26 personal backup gun he also carried — fired again twice, shooting himself twice in the thighs?
If he shot himself after the shooting had started he may also have had some of Keaton Otis’s blood on his shirt. It would also explain why Officer Burley needed to go to hospital in the back of a HEAT car, driven by HEAT officers. His gun would need to be made to look as if it had never been fired.
As the evidence in the reports by detectives shows, there was opportunity to re-load Officer Burley’s magazines. Officer Foote, who drove the injured Officer Burley to hospital, was four rounds short on his own magazines… and he had access and opportunity.
Officer Foote was four rounds short. And Officer Burley could have fired one or more shots as he stumbled.
This, and many other questions over the killing of Keaton Otis, could be resolved by a proper investigation led by the FBI, or the Department of Justice, using modern technology to re-examine the evidence including the video, the guns, statements and Officer Burley’s clothing as well as other evidence.
For a detailed review of the publicly-available evidence see The police shooting of Keaton Otis, a detailed review.