PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Multnomah County grand jury has returned an indictment against a Portland police officer accusing him of hitting an Oregon protester in the head with a baton in 2020.
The indictment marks the first time in the county an officer has been prosecuted stemming from force used during a protest, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Months of demonstrations over racial injustice last year led to accusations that officers were heavy-handed in their response.
Corey Budworth is charged with misdemeanor fourth-degree assault. He's accused of “unlawfully, knowingly and recklessly causing physical injury” to Teri Jacobs on Aug. 18.
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt called Budworth’s use of force excessive and lacking any legal justification, and said in a statement that “the integrity of our criminal justice system requires that we, as prosecutors, act as a mechanism for accountability."
Budworth, 40, joined the Police Bureau six years ago. He has been on desk duty during the investigation.
Budworth’s lawyer, Nicole L. Robbins, did not immediately return an email from the Associated Press seeking comment. The police union called the prosecution politically-driven, and said Budworth’s baton “push” to a woman’s head was “accidental."
U.S. Department of Justice lawyers and the city-hired compliance officer had highlighted the incident in their reports critical of the bureau’s review of officers’ use of force during the nightly demonstrations.
A video shared on Twitter caught an officer running and striking the back of a protester’s head with his baton shortly after 11 p.m. on Aug. 18. The officer knocked the woman down and then hit her with the baton a second time while she was down, the video appears to show.
The Police Bureau found the baton strike was “not intentional” and therefore not considered lethal force while the Independent Police Review office viewed the strike as a “push,” compliance officer Dennis Rosenbaum noted in his report.
However, Rosenbaum said the video did not support either stance and that police should have started a deadly force investigation. Police started an inquiry as a result — several weeks later, a federal Justice Department report noted.
At the time of the incident, Budworth was assigned to the Police Bureau’s Rapid Response Team, which does crowd control.
Jacobs filed the civil rights and battery lawsuit in September, saying she was working as a photojournalist when she was pushed by the officer.
“Ms. Jacobs posed no threat to the officer at any time, and she had not committed any crime nor was she being lawfully arrested or detained," her attorney Juan Chavez wrote in the lawsuit. "When the officer noticed he had been caught committing this vile act on camera, he quickly composed himself and walked away as if nothing happened. An entire squad of Portland Police Officers witnessed this act, failed to intervene, and allowed this officer to walk away after committing a violent crime against Ms. Jacobs.”
The city and Jacobs reached a settlement of the civil lawsuit this spring, with the city agreeing to pay her $50,000, plus $11,000 in attorney fees, court records show.
“Unfortunately, this decorated public servant has been caught in the crossfire of agenda-driven city leaders and a politicized criminal justice system,” the Portland Police Association said Tuesday in a statement.
Budworth used his baton to move Jacobs out of the area, the union argued.
“He faced a violent and chaotic, rapidly evolving situation, and he used the lowest level of baton force — a push; not a strike or a jab — to remove Ms. Jacobs from the area,” the union argues.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, in a Tuesday statement, said, “Law enforcement is held to a higher standard and must constantly strive to live up to that standard.”
He said he couldn’t comment about the case as he will play a role in the Police Bureau’s internal review of Budworth’s actions.
"I ask for the community's patience as we follow the guidelines of the established internal accountability process,” he said.