Portland, OR — Portland Police Officer Matt Bigoni is under internal investigation today, following death threats, threats to kill an animal, and physical abuse/destruction of property allegations from the man he was attempting to apprehend. Christopher Lee Fish, 27, was holed up in his motor home when officers arrived. Fish grabbed his cell phone camera and began recording. What he captured on his video camera was enough to open a possible criminal investigation.
After first attempting to deny his identity, potentially misleading the arresting officers, who claimed to have a warrant, Fish asked for 10 minutes to smoke his last cigarette and put on his clothes before coming out. Bigoni responded by declaring they were going to come in immediately if he didn’t open up the door to his recreational vehicle. “Stop moving your fucking hands or I’m going to shoot you in the head,” threatened Bigoni.
But the warnings and threats didn’t stop with just Fish. He said he’d kill his dog as well. “That dog is going to get shot if it comes out here. Do you understand,” stated Bigoni. After threatening him again by saying, “Listen to the the bell Chris it tolls for thee,” Officer Bigoni then made Fish a promise that he and his fellow officers eventually kept. “Bad things are going to happen when we come in, Chris,” he warned.
According to the Oregonian, the ordeal ended thereafter. “Three police officers ended the approximately 25-minute encounter by bursting into the camper, holding the man down, repeatedly punching the man in the face and fracturing the man’s eye socket and nose,” the paper writes. The pictures of Fish’s face demonstrated the officers did keep their promise to do bad things to him. He was charged with interfering with the actions of police and resisting arrest.
At Mr. Fish’s trial, the defense presented the audio and video evidence of the alleged mistreatment he’d received at the hands of the so-called “officers of the peace.” The Oregonian writes, “Multnomah County Circuit Judge Christopher Marshall dismissed a charge of interfering with police, and jurors acquitted Fish of the only remaining charge against him: Resisting arrest.”
But it won’t be the last time those same officers see Fish. His city appointed attorney filed a letter of intent to sue the city for the abusive treatment he received at the hands of the aggressive police officers. “On March 17, a civil attorney for Fish sent the city a notice of his intent to sue the city for alleged excessive force and lasting psychological damage,” according to the report.
Fish has the sympathy of a few of the jurors who served at his criminal trial, the same ones who exonerated him.
Juror Cheryl Barham told The Oregonian/OregonLive that she’s glad to hear that Fish has moved forward with plans to sue. She said the actions of the police officers was disheartening; their testimony during trial was “suspicious” and inconsistent; and it didn’t take the six-person jury long to determine that Fish wasn’t guilty of the crime charged against him.
“It was shocking to hear and see what they did,” Barham said of the officers.
Another juror agreed with Barham and went on record with concerns the state wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars attempting to convict Fish. The lawsuit, if successful, will undoubtedly cost the city and the state even more if the officers fail to defend their actions, and lose in civil court.
Juror Rachel Siegel said she knows Fish had a criminal record and police had a reason for showing up to take him into custody, but beating him was unnecessary and excessive. Siegel thought Bigoni was escalating the situation of a man holed up in his camper, not de-escalating it.
“The state had a very weak case, and I don’t know why they even wasted taxpayer money prosecuting this,” Siegel said.
As The Free Thought Project has reported on numerous occasions, very rarely is any real disciplinary action taken against officers such as Bigoni. At worst, the officers are given unpaid leave. At best, they’re given paid vacation while they watch their fellow boys in blue cover their backs. Barham apparently isn’t blind to those facts. She said she isn’t sure the police bureau’s internal investigation will reach a fair conclusion. “I don’t have a lot of faith in those…I don’t want that method of policing to be condoned,” she said.
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