PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A black Portland man who sued West Linn police over his arrest in 2017, brought his wife, two teenage sons and friends Tuesday to the predominantly white community that for so long he felt “didn’t want me and hurt me.’’
About 60 residents sat inside West Linn Lutheran Church and listened to Michael Fesser and his wife, Tanisha Wells, talk about how his arrest in Portland affected their family, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
“We need to help others so this doesn’t happen to any man, especially a black man,’’ Fesser told them.
Litigation from Fesser’s civil suit uncovered that West Linn police investigated and arrested him as a favor to a fishing buddy of then-Police Chief Terry Timeus. Timeus’ buddy was Fesser’s boss, Eric Benson, owner of A&B Towing in Southeast Portland.
Fesser, 48, argued that the arrest was retaliation for his complaints about a racially hostile work environment at the towing company. Theft charges against Fesser were dropped. The city paid $600,000 to Fesser to settle the suit and Benson and his company paid $415,000 to settle a separate discrimination and retaliation suit.
Several of those gathered at the church apologized for the West Linn police. Others asked how they could help and vowed to do what they can to educate their friends and relatives. Some of the few African American residents in the crowd shared their own accounts of facing racial discrimination in the Clackamas County town of about 25,000.
Fesser, a Portland native, had asked for the meeting as part of his civil settlement.