UPDATED: EPD Officers Shoot Black Man, Department Struggles to Keep Story Straight

UPDATE: 12/15/2020

Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow ruled that the shooting of Muhsin Sharif by officers of the Eugene Police Department was justified.

Exactly two weeks after Sharif was shot, the District Attorney released a statement summarizing the findings of the Interagency Deadly Force Investigation Team and reporting out the EPD’s version of events. In her report, she named Officers Ryan Trullinger and Bo Rankin as those responsible for shooting.

Included in the report was a video of the shooting from two angles: the body-worn camera of Trullinger and the in-car camera of Rankin. The graphic video shows officers firing eight rounds at Sharif as he ran through an alley and Rankin’s vehicle nearly running over Sharif when he fell to the ground.

It also depicts a third officer, Alex Swindling, using a Tazer to force Sharif to drop the knife in his hand. Sharif can be heard on camera saying that he was unable to move his hand.

Sharif has been charged with four felonies and is being held in the Lane County Jail. His bail has been set at $250,000.

To date, Patty Perlow has found every use of deadly force by law enforcement officers in Lane County to be justified.

UPDATE: 12/8/2020

In the week since Muhsin Sharif was shot twice by EPD officers, the “official” story has not become much clearer. But testimony from Sharif’s sisters, as well as his attorney, have begun to bring some of the murkier details of the incident into the light.

According to his sister, Tasmiyah Sharif, Muhsin Sharif is not from Eugene, nor is he unhoused–as was initially rumored. He lives in Pennsylvania and was reportedly in town visiting his child and his former partner.

Tasmiyah also said that the family did not know Muhsin’s condition until two days after the shooting, when they finally got confirmation from Riverbend hospital that Muhsin had been admitted. The family said that EPD had not contacted them about the shooting or the status of Muhsin during the week.

And according to his attorney, Brian Michaels, Sharif has been released from Riverbend hospital in Springfield and been transferred to the Lane County Jail. Sharif’s doctors at Riverbend reportedly recommended to the Sheriff’s Office that Sharif be kept in the jail’s medical bay for continued monitoring and care. But according to Michaels, Sharif is being kept in a single-occupant cell with the jail’s general population.

Inside the jail, Sharif is reportedly suffering from the lasting effects of his injuries, including continued bleeding from the gunshot wounds in his leg and shoulder. He is unable to walk or use his right hand, and requires the assistance of a wheelchair in order to get around.

Law enforcement agencies continue to struggle keeping their stories straight. According to Lane County Jail records, Muhsin Sharif was arraigned and booked into the jail on the evening of Dec. 4.

But according to his attorney, Sharif was not booked until Sunday afternoon.

The family has launched a GoFundMe to raise funds for Muhsin’s medical and legal expenses. A protest and rally partly dedicated to raising awareness of Muhsin Sharif was held on Dec. 4 in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene.

Representatives of the Eugene Police Department and the Lane County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the ongoing investigation into the shooting of Muhsin Sharif.

Original Story: 12/2/2020

On the morning of Nov. 30, 2020, sworn officers from the Eugene Police Department shot Muhsin Sharif, a 26-year-old Black man, in the alleyway next to Oakshire Brewing in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

That much is confirmed.

Almost immediately, EPD Chief Chris Skinner and Lane County District Attorney Patty Perlow sprang into action. Chief Skinner was reportedly on the scene within minutes of the shooting, talking to local press. The officer(s) who shot Sharif were put on paid administrative leave and the Inter-Agency Deadly Force Investigative Team was called in to take the lead on the investigation. 

However, the official narrative surrounding the shooting began unraveling almost as soon as it was made public.

The initial reporting of the shooting came from KEZI, Eugene’s ABC-affiliate news station. The original story, posted just after 1 p.m., claimed that EPD officers had been shot at by an unknown assailant, forcing them to return fire.

This was not true, but the story on their website was not changed until just before 4 p.m., when EPD put out their official statement regarding the shooting. 

By then, rumors had begun to swirl, as they always do. 

According to EPD’s statement, the Central Lane Communications Center received a 911 call regarding a domestic violence incident and restraining order violation around 10:24 a.m. 

Due to the nature of the call, EPD officers were sent to an apartment building somewhere in the Whiteaker neighborhood. After a brief search, officers made contact with someone running into an alleyway at 2nd and Madison. According to police, this person was holding a knife and had made a move toward officers, causing them to open fire.

Chief Skinner reiterated this information to two different camera crews that afternoon, though it was impossible to confirm anything he said on the record.

But though “official” information is sparse, witnesses have begun to come forward. One person, who wishes to remain anonymous because of what they witnessed, was in the area at the time of the shooting and said they heard “eight or nine shots” come from the alleyway by Oakshire. An Instagram video taken that morning and later shared with me also claimed that EPD officers “put like eight shots into this black (sic) man.”

Even EPD’s own dispatch log seems to contradict their official story.

According to records captured less than 12 hours after the shooting at 2nd and Madison, there were no calls for a domestic violence incident between 9:54 and 10:53 a.m. 

In fact, there were no dispatch calls at all during this period.

A screencap of the Eugene Police Department’s Dispatch Log between 9:30 a.m. and 3:07 p.m.

Expanding the scope of the dispatch log doesn’t provide any answers, either. 

Though the official statement does not specify which apartment or what address the alleged 911 call came from, there are only a handful of calls from that late morning and early afternoon to locations in the Whiteaker, and none were for domestic violence incidents or restraining order violations. 

The only one that might fit the EPD’s official narrative happened at 11:22 a.m., but at an address in the 10000 block of Coburg Road–several miles north of the shooting.

According to EPD Dispatch Logs, the 11:22 a.m. call was dispatched to the 10002 block of Coburg Road, 11.8 miles north of the shooting location by vehicle.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is no record of officers being dispatched to the scene at 2nd and Madison.

At 3:09 p.m., there is a dispatch for a “weapons offense” at 2nd and Madison. At 3:55 p.m., there is a dispatch for a “disorderly subject” to the same location. 

Both of these dispatches were at the location of the shooting.

According to the Lane County Fire and EMS dispatch log, emergency medical services were not called to the scene of the shooting until 12:02 p.m.–roughly an hour after the shooting reportedly occurred. 

Of course, this is not necessarily proof that EPD is engaged in a cover-up. But the gaps in these records raise many questions about how the EPD is handling the aftermath of the shooting and presenting themselves to the public. 

Two days after the shooting, Chief Skinner released another statement addressing what he called “critical misinformation” surrounding the investigation. He pushed back on claims that the EPD was misleading the public about the nature of the dispatch and attempted to explain why there was no log of the initial call.

“Incidents do not go on the public log while they are still open,” the statement read. “This is still an open incident. The call first came in regarding the domestic violence incident at 10:24:33… The suspect was spotted around 11:58 a.m. The encounter with shots fired was noted at 12:03:22. It is mandatory for officers to make sure the scene is safe and the suspect doesn’t still have weapons to use against them before quickly transitioning to providing emergency medical aid, which happened at 12:04.”

This attempt to correct the record only raised more questions.

It may be true that dispatch logs are not updated until the incident is closed–it is unclear how EPD operates their online log. But if that is the case, why are there two logs for a weapons offense and a disorderly subject that were opened and closed after 3 p.m.?

Chief Skinner’s latest statement further muddled the timeline. He originally stated that Sharif was shot just before 11 a.m., while his second statement said it happened just before noon. And if his second statement is to be believed, that would mean that EPD officers called for emergency medical aid about a minute before Sharif was shot by officers.

Muhsin Sharif’s name wasn’t even released by law enforcement–it was his sisters who revealed his identity to KEZI two days after he was shot.

“There has absolutely been zero communication between the police and our family,” his sisters told the same TV station that misreported the initial incident. “Absolutely zero. At this point right now, all we know is that they have him at the hospital. He had surgery. He was shot by the police.”

According to Sharif’s sisters, he’s not being allowed to speak publicly.

This is all very strange. As I’ve reported before, EPD is quick to spin a narrative in their favor, but rarely is their spin so sloppy. It’s never a good thing when the official story doesn’t line up with the facts, but this seems like an odd oversight on the part of EPD and their contacts in local media.

It seems clear that EPD and civilian officials, including Chief Skinner and D.A. Perlow, are doing their best to control the story before it spirals out of their control. News of local cops shooting yet another person of color would very likely spark another wave of protests in Eugene, which would possibly lead to another disastrous series of confrontations between police and protests, which would, in turn, lead to more costly lawsuits and terrible PR for the department. 

It would also open up fresh accusations of systemic racism within EPD, especially considering that a white suspect, also armed with a knife, was arrested without gunshots being fired earlier the same month. 

Disingenuous police departments trying to control a narrative are nothing new, but it seems unlikely that they would just make up an emergency call to justify the violent misconduct of their officers.

So I went looking for the 911 call. 

As of the publishing of this story, I have yet to receive anything from law enforcement or local officials that proves their side of the story. All the requisite public records have been filed, and readers have kindly raised over $350 to cover the costs of obtaining the 911 audio–assuming it exists–directly from the emergency call center. 

All that’s left to do is wait and see what comes of it.

In the meantime, the investigation will continue–both mine, and law enforcement’s.

I received this email from an OSP detective just minutes after filing the first of several public records requests for the 911 audio.

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