Ex-Portland Cop Sentenced for Driving Into Suspected Looter During 2020 Protest

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Retired Portland Police Bureau officer Scott Groshong, 52, will spend three years on probation and must complete 80 hours of community service after pleading guilty to third-degree assault and first-degree official misconduct for hitting a suspected looter with his vehicle while on duty during a protest on June 15, 2020. Screenshot via The Oregonian/YouTube. Photo courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Screenshot via The Oregonian/YouTube. Photo courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

A retired Portland Police Bureau officer who struck a looting suspect with his car during a protest in the summer of 2020 was sentenced to probation and community service Monday, July 25, after pleading guilty to third-degree assault and first-degree official misconduct.

Scott Groshong, 52, will spend three years on probation and must complete 80 hours of community service, according to the Multnomah County district attorney’s office. His police certification will also be revoked.

Groshong was working undercover surveillance during a protest on June 15, 2020, near downtown Portland. The protests and riots had begun more than two weeks prior in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Just before midnight, Groshong and another officer heard glass breaking, according to court records reviewed by The Oregonian.

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Portland Police Bureau officer Scott Groshong said he saw three people stealing from a skateboard shop, left, during a protest June 15, 2020, in Portland, Oregon. Screenshot via The Oregonian/YouTube. Right, thieves allegedly smashed windows and stole merchandise from the store after police had declared the protest a civil disturbance. Portland Police Bureau photo.

Left, screenshot courtesy of The Oregonian/YouTube. Right, Portland Police Bureau photo.

Groshong drove his unmarked vehicle closer to Tactics skate shop and, according to The Oregonian, saw two men reaching through the shattered windows and stealing skateboards before taking off. Then a third man allegedly walked up to the broken window and stole a helmet before darting across the street, the paper reported.

Video captured by an unnamed resident and shared with the newspaper appears to show at least two figures reaching through the windows of the shop and then running off. As one figure runs away, a second clip appears to show an unmarked black van speed toward and hit the alleged thief, sending the suspect flying through the air to land on his back on the sidewalk. Then the suspect appears to scramble to his feet and run off, leaving a stolen helmet behind.

The suspect, identified in court records as then-33-year-old Robert Leitch, was arrested later that night on charges of second-degree burglary and rioting, but the charges were later dropped. The Multnomah County district attorney’s office said it had forwarded Leitch’s case to the Columbia County district attorney’s office for review and that the investigation was ongoing.

“Groshong recklessly drove his vehicle into the man, striking him and causing him a serious physical injury,” the Multnomah County DA’s office said in a statement Monday, adding that “Groshong then failed to report the collision that caused injury to the man.”

Groshong retired in August 2020. That October, a grand jury issued a nine-count indictment against him. At the time, Groshong’s lawyers argued that the officer didn’t know he had hit Leitch.

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Portland was rocked by a summer of protests and riots around police tactics and calls for reform in 2020. Police made more than 1,000 arrests, the vast majority of which ended in dropped charges. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

"[The suspect] ran across the street in front of the van in the middle of the road at night carrying stolen items,” lawyer Steven Myers told The Oregonian in 2020. “It’s preposterous to come to the conclusion that Groshong knew he hit the individual. The suspect pops up and runs for five to six blocks and is caught six blocks away.”

It’s not clear what kind of injuries Leitch suffered, but third-degree assault generally involves “serious physical injury” under Oregon law.

Citing a conflict of interest, the Multnomah County DA’s office asked a Marion County deputy district attorney to prosecute the case.

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Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear-gassed during the 2020-21 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.
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