Kendra Sarie James
December 24, 1981
May 5, 2003
Age at Death:
Ms. James was a mother of two children. Sadly, she had a difficult childhood. Later, she struggled with a drug habit; her mother, Shirley, was said to have been a drug user that successfully kicked the habit.
Ms. James was a passenger (with an outstanding warrant for her arrest) - stopped by three Portland police officers for failing to stop at a stop sign. The driver was arrested and placed in a squad car after he was discovered to have an outstanding warrant. After he and another passenger in the car were removed peaceably by the officers, Ms. James jumped from the back seat into the driver's seat. One officer made several attempts to remove her while partially within the vehicle through an open door. He claimed to have tried to pull Ms. James out by her hair, and attempted to use a taser, and pepper spray to subdue her. The officer drew his firearm and held it to Ms. James' head, demanding she exit the vehicle. As the officer said he felt the car move, he fired one shot over a concern that he could have been run over. Source: It is noteworthy that all three officers were under 30 years of age and all had less than 2 years of police experience. Source:
Was justice served?
No. The officer involved in the shooting was found not guilty by a grand jury of manslaughter and his 180 day suspension was largerly overturned later. The James family's lawyers questioned whether evidence existed regarding Ms. James attempting to move the car, and whether the tactics the officer used, especially his attempt to enter the car, were consistent with police training. Several witnesses alleged that the officer did not fire while within the car; powder residue testing indicated that the officer's handgun was at least 30 to 48 inches away from Ms. James when discharged, a fact which lawyers for James' family alleged was inconsistent with the officer's version of events. Ms. James, was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court. One of the officers who pulled the car over told Ms. James he recognized her while attempting to identify the rental car's driver. This may have intimidated her and caused her to be fearful for her safety. Further, it was reported that the officers pulled Ms. James out and handcuffed her after she was shot, which is standard procedure; however, they left her lying unattended while they set up a crime scene perimeter, rather than staying with her until paramedics arrived. The police did not check her vital signs, according to officers, because it was thought she was "faking" being unconscious. One report also points out one officer drove away from the scene to use the bathroom at the nearby Northeast Precinct and claims he got lost trying to find his way back. To add to suspiciousness, before being interviewed by investigators, two of the three officers went out to dinner together the night after the shooting - a violation of police protocols. "Prior to the interview and walk through with the detective witness members will not have extensive discussion about the incident with any other person."
Despite a number of contradictions in police and witness testimony, on May 19 the Multnomah County grand jury came back without a criminal indictment against the officer who shot Ms. James. It is likely that the D.A. was only asking whether the officer could be charged with homicide, as opposed to manslaughter or another lesser crime.