- Associated Press - Friday, January 27, 2017

BEND, Ore. (AP) - In the weeks since police killed her son, Karen Jacques has avoided online comments, news articles and cellphone videos that were broadcast on TV. She’d been told of the graphic content, and the way people characterized her son, Michael Tyler Jacques. They called him a pedophile and a violent drunk.

She stayed away because she remembers him differently. Her son, in her eyes still a boy in so many ways, was a funny, sensitive child with a penchant for being empathetic toward the misfits in his life.

He took kids with disabilities under his wing because he knew how it felt to not fit in, she said.

Jacques, 31 - most people called him Tyler - grew up in a normal family, his mother said. He played with plastic toy soldiers and went to school like everyone else. But in high school, he experimented with drugs and alcohol. He formed an addiction that he fought until the final days of his life.

“He has struggled with learning disabilities, mental health issues,” Karen Jacques, 70, said. “But his primary diagnosis was post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s from his time in prison.”

Over the years, Karen Jacques saw the transformation drugs, alcohol and prison forced upon him. In the wake of his death, she has seen the community quick to say he deserved to die. And while she admits he had his faults, she said she saw the sweet, compassionate boy she raised up until the day he died.

Jacques was sent to prison for three years when he was 19 for a lewd and lascivious acts conviction. There, he was a victim of several assaults that resulted in severe head trauma, Karen Jacques said. Many who knew Jacques said he was never the same after prison. After getting out, his learning disabilities were more pronounced, and he continued to struggle intermittently with drugs and alcohol. He also showed streaks of paranoia, or being hyper-alert, as well as bouts of violence.

“We would have these family dinners that would go really well, and then he would start to talk about prison, and the things they did to him in prison, and he just couldn’t let go of it,” Karen Jacques said.

Jacques was a white, middle-class kid from Laguna Beach, California. His mother said that made him stick out in the California prison system, but Jacques refused to join a prison gang for protection.

“He would not affiliate with the white skinheads,” Karen Jacques said. “So they beat him senseless.”

The fatal stop

Jacques was shot and killed in downtown Bend on Dec. 23 after Bend Police officers pulled him over near the intersection of Bond Street and Franklin Avenue following reports of erratic driving. Police have said Jacques - who was driving a 2002 Dodge Caravan with Rascal, an emotional service dog he got when he was released from prison - did not comply with orders and the situation escalated. Either one, or both officers, Scott Schaier and Marc Tisher, deployed a Taser, which they said was ineffective. Schaier then fired his service weapon, killing Jacques. Investigators have yet to say how many shots were fired.

Schaier and Tisher were placed on paid leave while the shooting is investigated.

More than a month later, police have yet to disclose what Jacques did to instigate use of lethal force, or what officers Tisher and Schaier did to deescalate the situation. At a press conference the day after the shooting, police said they did not know if Jacques was armed and have yet to say what, if anything, was found when officers searched the van. Similarly, Bend Police Chief Jim Porter described Jacques at the press conference as a drunk driver, though no toxicology report has ever been released.

Karen Jacques and her husband, Michael Sr., were awakened at 4:30 a.m. to police knocking on the door of their home in Bend, where their son had been living since last summer. Karen Jacques said it was a surprise, but something she always knew was possible.

“When you have a child that’s had so many difficulties, you have what I would call anticipatory grief,” she said. “Especially since so many of his friends have already died of overdoses, we were always afraid this day would come. And here it is.”

Forming an opinion

However, when police explained how her son died, Karen Jacques was caught off guard. She didn’t think the police characterization of her son’s actions that night fit his personality, she said.

Police asked for permission to search the home, and in a state of grief, Karen Jacques consented. Looking back, she is skeptical of police motives. What were they looking for, she thought, and how would it help an investigation? If police were to find something incriminating, she wondered, how would that justify a fatal shooting?

Karen Jacques said the search turned up little. She recalled police seizing a small folding knife Jacques used to clean his finger nails and an old cell phone.

Several hours later, when Bend police explained what happened to the media, Karen Jacques felt her son was deliberately painted in a bad light and she began to question how fair the investigation into his death was going to be.

Karen Jacques remembers the police telling her that morning that her son had provoked the officers and that’s why he was shot. She remembers a rush of empathy for Schaier, who was identified later as the officer who shot her son.

“I thought, that poor guy is never going to be right again because he had to shoot somebody,” she said. “Now I feel like he murdered him.”

A bleeding heart

Those who knew Jacques as a child say he was curious and compassionate.

Karen Jacques remembers her son being given an award in front of his entire middle school for having the biggest heart. He was honored for befriending a young girl who had been adopted and had a lot of emotional problems. Jacques often helped calm her down and walked with her to wherever she needed to go.

“He was particularly empathetic toward people with disabilities,” Karen Jacques said.

Others that knew him from a young age remember Jacques as a fun-loving kid. David Duker, a 69-year-old Laguna Beach, California, resident, knew Jacques through his son, Lewis. He remembers watching the two playing with toys, and later taking them on a trip to Mexico. As they got older, Duker recalled the two boys’ move from innocence to a more sordid lifestyle.

“They were stepping away from the mainstream as far as school work and (staying on the) straight and narrow goes,” Duker said.

In high school, Jacques was sent from his Laguna Beach world, where his friends had disposable income and access to drugs, to Bend where he started wilderness therapy through Bridges Academy. Joan McOmber, the school’s executive director until it closed earlier this month, remembers him well.

She called him a bright but different learner. Through a structured school environment, he saw a lot of academic success, she said. However, he had what she called auditory processing issues, and could become easily overloaded when flooded with information. She said teachers at Bridges would work slowly with him to understand what he was absorbing, and what he wasn’t.

Not too long after he left Bridges, an 18-year-old Jacques met a girl who told him she was 15, Karen Jacques said. The girl was actually 13, but never told Jacques, and the two had sex several times. When the girl’s parents found out, they pressed criminal charges.

“You know, she was five-foot-eight, she didn’t look like a little girl,” Karen Jacques said.

Jacques went to prison, but stayed in touch with McOmber. When he got out, she noticed a difference.

“He just wasn’t the same,” she said. “I would guess it was the head injuries. Head injuries can change someone drastically. When I knew him as a high schooler, he was more fun-loving. Just more easy-going.”

Life on the outside

Life after prison left Jacques fractured, his friends and loved ones said. Signs of the compassionate little boy remained, but new characteristics surfaced. He struggled at times with drinking and illegal drugs, but also had long stretches of sobriety. He started working as a landscaper informally for several of the people in his father’s Laguna Beach neighborhood, including Matt Warner.

“He was very smart, very creative,” Warner said.

Warner recalled Jacques enjoyed watching the butterflies that visited his yard. But Warner also saw signs of learning disabilities that Jacques had suffered with his entire life.

“There was something that didn’t click right. It was just really weird,” Warner said. “He could know incredible amounts of stuff about things, and then there was just something that prohibited him from having a normal, everyday job.”

He also knew Jacques’ time in prison had an impact.

“It destroyed him,” Warner said. “He went to prison as a child molester. Do you know what it’s like in prison for a child molester?”

Warner said Jacques was trustworthy and he never worried about giving him unsupervised access to his home.

Neither did Duker, who reconnected with Jacques and hired him to work on his yard.

“I would leave the money out for him in advance,” Duker said. “There was never any issue with him taking the money and him not doing the work.”

Seeking a fresh start

Jacques had a spate of interactions with law enforcement, though mostly parole violations. He moved to Bend to live with his mother May 16, 2016, the day after he got off parole. His dad, who is an art professor in California, would split his time in Bend and Laguna Beach. Karen Jacques said her son was seeking a fresh start. He was sober, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and working out. He was fixing things around the house and going on hikes with Rascal.

But Jacques wasn’t able to stay out of trouble. In July, he got in a bar fight at the Westside Tavern in Bend. According to a Bend Police report, Jacques was very drunk when taken into custody by an officer, and on the ride back to the police station started insulting the cop. The insults were interrupted by apologies for being disrespectful.

When walking through the jail, a handcuffed Jacques told the officer he could spin around and head-butt him. Jacques then spun around, and the officer sat him down on a bench. He later was convicted of attempted assault on an officer.

It was typical of the many relapses Karen Jacques saw in her son. But with each slip, Jacques also worked to push forward she said.

“He was fighting so hard. He wanted to have a fresh start and a normal life,” Karen Jacques said.

The final push for change

He took medication for his psychological issues, but it was expensive, and Jacques had run out in the weeks before his death. On Dec. 20, Karen Jacques purchased some for her son. The night before he was killed, the family went out to sushi to formulate a plan on how Jacques could stay sober.

“Tyler said ‘I know I need to get it together,’” Karen Jacques recalled. “‘I am starting to self-medicate, this isn’t going to work.’”

Jacques had lost a job as a painter over the summer when his employer did a background check and found out he was a registered sex offender. He was discouraged, but his parents offered to help him try and get back on his feet.

The next night, Jacques’ life ended during a traffic stop in Bend.

“It was every parent’s worse nightmare,” Karen Jacques said through tears. “He was not very mature. And during the time he spent in prison, he didn’t exactly grow up. So we still think of him as our boy.”

Jacques’ family, and those who knew him, said they can’t see Jacques doing something to warrant death.

Karen Jacques believes her son was overwhelmed by the police presence, and shut down - something that often happened in stressful situations. McOmber, a licensed therapist in California, said that would fit with Jacques’ mental processing issues.

“There’s the fight, flight or freeze, and I could definitely see Tyler in that situation freezing,” she said

Karen Jacques said she believes the shooting was unlawful.

“The police have got to learn to be a little more controlled,” Karen Jacques said.

In the weeks since, Karen Jacques said she has been a mess. Some days, she is unable to get out of bed or leave the house. Other days, she moves around the home, Rascal by her side, with constant reminders of her son in the form of pictures, or little projects he was working on.

She thinks about the piece of her family that was taken away and how she will never have grandchildren.

“This changed the whole course of our lives,” she said.


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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