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Campus movement to disarm police gets a boost with fatal shooting

Witness says man was warned ‘multiple times’ not to pick up his gun

Student activists at Portland State University have been agitating for years to overturn the public institution’s policy of arming its campus police, claiming it’s intended to keep minorities down.

Now the #DisarmPSU movement has its first casualty of the three-year-old policy.

Campus police shot and killed a Navy veteran with a concealed-carry permit whose gun fell out of its holster while he was allegedly trying to break up a fight outside a campus bar.

CBS News reports that more than 100 protesters marched through Portland to the campus Sunday to protest the shooting, “wearing black and carrying signs demanding justice” for 45-year-old Jason Washington:

Attending Sunday’s vigil, Jo Ann Hardesty told CBS News, “Community members and staff and faculty were very, very concerned about arming the police.”

Hardesty said many people here have been speaking out against arming campus security officers  ever since it began three years ago. “We knew then that somebody would die, and here we are. I had to be here because we knew it would happen – we just didn’t know when.”

The two officers involved in the shooting, Shawn McKenzie and James Dewey, were placed on administrative leave.

An employee at the campus bar told The Oregonian that Washington reached for his fallen gun after being warned “multiple times” by the officers to not reach for it: “I don’t want the message out there that the cops were trigger-happy. … People think they were overzealous, but they had to do it.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, PSU was the only public university with more than 15,000 students that didn’t arm its campus police before its board voted to change that policy in late 2014.

The university justified the decision by saying it had no way to quickly respond to “emergencies” such an an active shooter, since the municipal police could take 20 minutes to arrive to PSU’s neighborhood.

The PSU student union released a statement saying the two officers “murdered” Washington because cellphone video showed his back was turned when he was shot.

Student leaders repeatedly called the arming of sworn police officers “armament” and blamed police and capitalism for society’s ills:

We called to #DisarmPSU because we know that policing in this country is built atop an explicitly racist foundation, and in a city with a laundry list of people of color and disabled people who have been murdered by police, we saw no need to perpetuate this oppression on our campus. …

Everyone who has expressed dissent over the years to the armament of CPSO and creation of a police force knew that one day this decision would result in deadly violence, and we know that it will continue to happen so long as campus security remain a deputized and armed police force. There’s no way around it — this is how policing works.

They also accused campus police of excessive force in responding to a March call that a mentally troubled student might be about to commit suicide.

Both campus and municipal police came with a resident adviser and EMTs, who administrated sedatives when the student refused to board the ambulance, according to the Vanguard.

Read the CBS News, Inside Higher Ed, Oregonian and Vanguard reports.

MORE: PSU arms police to keep minorities down, activists say

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