The grand jury presiding over Darren Wilson’s shooting of teen Michael Brown concluded yesterday evening. The jury found Wilson not guilty, setting off another bought of chaotic rioting throughout the streets of Ferguson.
Protests rippled across the country — from Chicago and Los Angeles to Seattle and Portland. Hundreds of Portlanders marched to the Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct where some drew chalk body lines representing African Americans killed by police.
Approximately 20 Portlanders drove to Ferguson in what some called this generation’s “Freedom Ride.”
“We want our young people to believe their lives matter,” said Lakeitha Elliot, a Portland resident who volunteers at Jefferson High School. “When the media and the justice system act like their lives don’t matter, it’s hard to have our young people believe that their lives do.”
Some Portland police officers posted photos on Facebook of their police badges wrapped in bracelets that read “I am Darren Wilson.” Yesterday, Police Chief Mike Reese ordered these photos be removed.
“Their actions do a disservice to the hundreds of Portland Police Officers who are building relationships and partnerships with the community every day,” Mayor Charlie Hales said of the officers who cited Wilson on Facebook.
Wilson announced he may resign from the Ferguson Police Department, telling colleagues that he considered resigning “to help ease pressure and protect his fellow officers.”
“It would be senseless for him to go back to Ferguson,” CNN legal analyst Mark O’Mara said. “And I don’t even think he can go back to law enforcement, for the same reason. He is still now going to carry with him this mantle that he was the cop who killed the young black kid that sparked the controversy nationwide.”
Anticipating the brewing violence, many Ferguson shop owners boarded over their doors and windows in advance of the grand jury’s decision. Multiple schools also closed.
Despite their grief, the parents of Michael Brown urged protesters to act peacefully.
“We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the couple said in a statement. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
The Browns are working to promote new laws requiring all officers to wear cameras on their uniforms.
“I hope something really good comes out of all of this. Otherwise, [Brown] would have died in vain,” Stoney Shaw, pastor at First Baptist Church Ferguson, told CNN.
On September 25, Portland police Officer John Romero received Medal of Valor, Life Saving Medal, and Police Star for courageous actions.
Romero has been recognized for several acts of bravery, including bringing down a wanted kidnapper/sex offender after sustaining injury to his hand, as well as resuscitating a teen boy found hanging in a basement.
Romero, 36, became a member of the bureau in 2006. He serves in the Youth Services Division as a resource officer for Wilson High School.
Wilson High junior, Mark Schmitz, 17, explained that Romero is present throughout the hallways during school days. “He’s a nice guy and an outstanding cop,” Schmitz said.
Sophomore Hannah Berglund, 15, said that Romero talks to kids who are sitting by themselves during lunch. “He’s really good at helping kids who have social insecurities. He’s kind of like an uncle,” Berglund explained.
On March 12, 2014, Romero responded to a call about a suspicious looking van near Hillsdale Library that was following students.
The driver turned out to be Kelly Vern Mark Swoboda, a man suspected of robbery and stalking and wanted for kidnapping and assault.
A shootout ensued. Swoboda shot Romero in the right hand with a .45 caliber gun. The bullet traveled up his arm and exited through his forearm. Romero then shot and killed Swoboda and radioed for help.
Upon search, police found chains, zipties, and pornographic movies in Swoboda’s van. Documents were also released which showed that Swoboda would take notes on girls that he stalked, such as their descriptions and license plate numbers.
Romero said that if kidnapping a student was Swoboda’s plan, he was glad he stopped him.
Romero was awarded the Police Star for sustaining serious physical injury by protecting a life, as well as the Medal of Valor, the most distinguished award the police bureau offers, “for the calm heroism you [Romero] displayed while in grave danger,” according to Sergeant Peter Simpson.
Romero also received the Life Saving Medal along with Officers Gail Alexander and John Hurlman for performing CPR to save an asphyxiated 16-year-old boy.
Romero, Alexander, and Hurlman were sent to do a welfare check on a teenage boy. When they arrived, they found him hanging in his basement, an apparent suicide attempt. The officers immediately cut the rope and began CPR.
The boy was taken to the hospital by ambulance and was met by his parents and, by Romero’s contact with the school district, his two brothers.
The boy was taken off life support and died after spending two days in the hospital.
“Though not every life can be saved, these officers did everything they could on that fateful day to help a young man who obviously was determined to end his life. Despite the tragic ending of this incident, due to the actions of Officers Alexander, Hurlman and Romero, a boy’s family had the opportunity to say goodbye and have closure with their loved one,” Simpson said.
Police Chief Mike Reese proudly announced September 25, “As first responders, we know how life can change in an moment’s notice. Though some of these stories are tragic, we must honor [the award recipients’] efforts.”
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Romero said. “I consider myself a police officer that did his job just like any other police officer would have done the same thing.”
Romero explained that his faith and his training got him through these terrible incidents. “I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of the community and students of Wilson High School,” he said.