Protestors outside the Multnomah County Justice Center in downtown Portland. Photo by Ethan Rocke/Coffee or Die.
A Multnomah County grand jury indicted Portland, Oregon, police officer Corey Budworth Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of assault from the civil unrest that swept the city in summer 2020. The indictment is the first against a police officer stemming from 2020’s protests and riots in Portland. According to Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt, Budworth struck photojournalist Teri Jacobs in the head with a baton during an Aug. 18 protest.
Though the Portland police union that represents Budworth slammed the indictment as political, Schmidt said his office’s charges stemmed from an internal police investigation of Budworth’s actions. Jacobs has sued the police department in civil court over Budworth’s actions.
The summer of 2020 was scarred by months of nightly protests in Portland, straining both law enforcement and prosecutors in the city. In a statement to Coffee or Die Magazine, Schmidt’s office said the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office had been referred 1,108 criminal cases during the civil unrest and had filed charges in 194.
Hundreds of protesters were arrested over the summer of 2020, and most were released, a policy Schmidt explained in an Aug. 11 press release.
Jacobs spent the summer documenting the events of the Portland unrest, which went on nearly continuously for more than 75 days. The Willamette Week reported that, in the lawsuit Jacobs filed, she claimed both that she was wearing her press pass and was pulling a friend up off the ground when Budworth “swung his truncheon like a baseball bat … striking her several times.”
The city’s police union, the Portland Police Association (PPA), issued a fiery statement via Facebook in Budworth’s defense, calling the charges politically motivated slander. “Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system,” the post reads. Budworth has no prior incidents of use of force, according to the post.
According to the union, a crowd of demonstrators wearing helmets and face coverings had incited a riot and started fires that Budworth and his fellow members of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) had been tasked with responding to. “As the event escalated it was declared a riot,” the PPA post reads. “Community members and police officers were at risk of serious injury and someone from the crowd launched a Molotov cocktail.”
Budworth and the RRT cleared the area but faced particular resistance from a group including Jacobs, who fell down in front of Budworth, according to the PPA.
“Reasonably believing that she was getting back up to re-engage in her unlawful activities, Officer Budworth employed one last baton push to try and keep her on the ground, which accidentally struck Ms. Jacobs in the head,” the post reads.
But the PPA steered clear of a straight denial, with the Facebook post saying Budworth’s use of the baton on Jacobs’s face was “accidental, not criminal.” According to the union, its “own experts reviewed his actions and found them reasonable, permissible, and in accordance with his training.”
Portland Chief of Police Chuck Lovell issued his own brief statement saying that he could not share details of an ongoing case.
Lauren Coontz is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. Beaches are preferred, but Lauren calls the Rocky Mountains of Utah home. You can usually find her in an art museum, at an archaeology site, or checking out local nightlife like drag shows and cocktail bars (gin is key). A student of history, Lauren is an Army veteran who worked all over the world and loves to travel to see the old stuff the history books only give a sentence to. She likes medium roast coffee and sometimes, like a sinner, adds sweet cream to it.
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