Police: Broken phone used to simulate gun before deadly shooting

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by David Krough, KGW.com Staff

KREM.com

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 8:57 PM

PORTLAND – A bank robbery fugitive at Portland Adventist Hospital Sunday stole a phone and used a broken piece of it to simulate a gun and threaten employees before he was shot to death by police, investigators said Wednesday.

Merle M. Hatch, 50, was a career criminal with arrests in California, Arizona and Colorado on a variety of charges including homicide, burglary, bank robbery and theft, according to Portland police.

Sgt. Pete Simpson said at a news conference Wednesday that Hatch was the suspect in a robbery on February 13 at the Albina Bank on Northeast Sandy.

An 8-inch black piece of plastic, believed to be a phone receiver stolen from the hospital, was used by the suspect to simulate a gun, Chief Mike Reese said.

Police showed surveillance images of Hatch confronting a hospital security guard. No handgun was recovered in the investigation, Reese said.

Surveillance video taken by a neighbor also showed the suspect threatening to take hostages and taunt officers in the confrontation, before the deadly shots were fired by officers.

“During the course of the encounter, the suspect charged at the officers, running 65 yards toward them. The officers deployed lethal force from 14 yards away,” Simpson said.

Police said they released the phone evidence Wednesday after witnesses were interviewed, in order to avoid compromising the integrity of the investigation.

Mayor Charlie Hales said the evening of the shooting, he was notified by Chief Mike Reese and stayed at the scene and was continually briefed.

“Those larger questions (on the use of force) are for another day,” Hales said.

Previous: Man shot by police was fugitive

Hatch was also the suspect in a February 15 robbery at the Wells Fargo bank in the 12000 block of Sunnyside Road, Sgt. Adam Phillips of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday afternoon.

Hatch was released from the Sheridan Federal Detention Facility on February 12, 2013. He was listed as a fugitive when he failed to report to a halfway house in Colorado.

Police said Sunday night, a man told hospital staff that he had a gun and would use it on an employee, before demanding the employee lead him to the exit, a hospital spokesperson later said.

Emergency procedures were put in place. Portland police arrived and in the confrontation fired the fatal shots at Hatch.

The three officers involved in the shooting were all assigned to the East Precinct: Sergeant Nathan Voeller a 12-year-veteran; officer Andrew Hearst, a 3-year-veteran; and officer Royce Curtiss, a 7-year-veteran.

WARNING: Graphic language in video

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