October 20, 1998 is when it happened. Dickie Dow had been sick for a while – crazy sick. He stopped taking medicine, probably in Spring, and at first things seemed better – clearer. He slept less, ate less and thought a lot more. His mother gave him herb tea, at best a placebo, praying it would work. They both knew it wouldn’t.

Dickie Dow MemorialIn August there had been an argument with the store manager at Fred Meyer. Case workers were contacted and Dow was discussed in staff meetings. Did anyone go see Dow? Maybe, probably not. A home visit probably seemed too difficult, too unpredictable, a problem too unfixable.

It started with shouts – a spooked security guard called 911. After a predictable scrum of cops, batons, swirling lights, screams and handcuffs, Dickie Dow was killed Portland Police officers, in front of his parents, neighbors and friends.

Dickie Dow MemorialThe cops involved were exonerated by a grand jury. Experts testified, advocates marched, lawyers negotiated, politicians promised. Quietly all by itself the mental health system collapsed (though some would point to the abrupt closing of the Garlington Center as the true tipping point).

But nothing changed. Nothing really.

Dow’s forgotten memorial, a small plaque set between two tangled rose bushes, adjoins a littered bus stop on busy Lombard Boulevard at N. Fenwick.

In loving memory of Richard “Dickie” Dow
We all miss you so much. May the roses bloom for you forevermore.

See – Portland Police Shooting Incidents – 1990 – 2006

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