PORTLAND, Ore. — A Multnomah County judge has ruled that prosecutors can’t use statements a murder suspect made to police because the detective talked to the man after he had already asked for an attorney, a newspaper reported Friday.
Russell Courtier, 39, was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of intentionally running down a black teen after an altercation in a convenience store parking lot.
Courtier has pleaded not guilty to murder and intimidation — a hate crime — in the death of 19-year-old Larnell Malik Bruce Jr. at the Gresham 7-Eleven.
Courtier’s girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, was in the passenger seat of Courtier’s Jeep and has pleaded not guilty to intimidation.
Gresham Detective Aaron Turnage tried to interview Courtier around 2 a.m. on the night of the incident, but stopped when Courtier asked for a lawyer, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Turnage told Courtier Bruce was seriously injured and he would likely be charged with attempted murder.
Three hours later, Turnage returned to tell Courtier that Bruce was dying and told Courtier that “at any point in the future if you decide that you wanna talk to me let me know,” the Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Courtier then said he wanted to talk, and his lawyer was not present.
Circuit Judge Jerry Hodson ruled Thursday that statements Courtier made after that point can’t be used at the February murder trial. Those include a videotaped statement Courtier made saying that he was the one driving the Jeep, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors can appeal Hodson’s ruling.
Other evidence in the case that isn’t affected by Hodson’s ruling includes multiple eyewitnesses and surveillance video that shows Courtier and Bruce fighting earlier outside the convenience store. Seconds before Bruce was fatally struck by the Jeep, surveillance video shows Bruce sprinting for his life.
Local media outlets raised questions last year about Courtier’s possible affiliation with a white supremacist group after finding pictures on his Facebook page that show him with a tattoo of “EK,” which stands for European Kindred. At the time, authorities had not charged him or Hunt with a hate crime, but were investigating.
Courtier was re-indicted on hate crime charges in September 2016.
According to court documents, Bruce and Courtier got into an argument that turned physical outside the 7-Elevin on Aug. 10, 2016. Bruce was armed with a machete.
It still isn’t clear what the two were fighting about, but moments later Courtier jumped in his 1991 Jeep Wrangler and chased down Bruce as the teen ducked and wove through the parking lot on foot, according to an affidavit for probable cause. Surveillance video shows the Jeep turning around rapidly and accelerating toward Bruce as he tries to flee.
The video did not capture the moment Bruce was struck, the affidavit said, but a responding officer found him unconscious on the ground with blood streaming from his head and ears. The officer also spotted a red Jeep speeding away.
Hunt shouted “Get him, baby, get him” during the fight, but has denied any involvement in Bruce’s death, according to court papers.
Bruce died three days after being struck.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com