Case Highlights

Waterhouse v. Frashour

This case involved the use of excessive force by several Portland Police officers when they entered a private yard while searching for an alleged jaywalker. The officers broke several windows on a car in the course of their search. The residents became upset and asked the officers what they were doing. When they gave no explanation, one of the guests on the property, Frank Waterhouse, began recording the actions of the officers with a video camera. A few moments later, one of the officers saw the video camera and accused Mr. Waterhouse of being the alleged jaywalker. Seven officers suddenly converged on Mr. Waterhouse with weapons drawn. When Mr. Waterhouse did not immediately put the camera down, two of the officers shot Mr. Waterhouse with a less-lethal shotgun and a Taser. The officers did not provide any warning that they were going to fire these weapons. Mr. Waterhouse immediately fell to the ground, dropping the camera, and several of the officers then jumped on top of him, pressing his body and his face into the ground while striking him with their fists and knees.

Mr. Waterhouse sought an apology, a commitment to policy change, and modest monetary compensation before resorting to a civil lawsuit against the officers involved in the incident. The City of Portland, on behalf of the officers, rejected all offers to compromise before and after our client filed suit. At trial, the officers claimed that Mr. Waterhouse was a danger to their safety based on his “body language” and that he might have tried to fight or run away, or even that he might have tried to use his video camera as a deadly weapon, if they had not fired their own weapons on him first.

The case proceeded to a four-day jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in September 2009 before Judge Ancer Haggerty. Witnesses included former Portland Police Chief Roseanne Sizer, former Bellevue, Washington police chief Donald Van Blaricom, the officers involved in the incident, and residents and guests who were on the property. Mr. Waterhouse requested monetary compensation for the physical pain, fear, and humiliation that he experienced. The jury found that the two officers who fired their weapons-Ronald Frashour and Joshua Bocchino- had used excessive against Mr. Waterhouse in violation of his constitutional rights and awarded him $55,000 in general damages, in addition to all of his attorney fees and costs incurred in the case.