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A veteran cop’s instinct and a half-second look led Portland police to hospital gunman

The white van with red stripe that Sgt. Michael Filbert stopped on Northeast 181st Avenue in Gresham on July 22, 2023. (Maxine Bernstein and Austin De/

Portland police Sgt. Michael Filbert was working an overtime shift July 22, his first day back from injury leave after someone broadsided his cruiser five days earlier.

All Central and North Precinct officers responded to a Code 3 call to help search for the gunman who shot a security officer on the maternity ward of Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Northwest Portland.

Filbert, one other East Precinct sergeant and two patrol officers stayed behind to handle emergency calls on the east side.

“Basically, we were the only cops in the city that weren’t looking for this guy,” he said.

Yet it was Filbert who ended up locating the gunman, largely due to his own initiative and instincts.

Less than an hour after the first 911 call came in alerting police to a threat at the hospital, Portland police at 11:35 a.m. broadcast the name of the suspected shooter, a description and photos of him from hospital security footage.

“So I started looking up his addresses,” Filbert, a 24-year bureau veteran, told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Tuesday, sharing his story publicly for the first time.

He found PoniaX Kane Calles had a prior address at Northeast 134th and Sandy Boulevard under his original name, Reginald Kane Jackson. He legally changed his name in 2020 to Calles.

Filbert rolled by the apartment complex. He didn’t approach the apartment but drove around the block to look at the back of the building.

Filbert then circled again and briefly looked to his right toward 135th Avenue and saw a white van with a red stripe about a block away.

“And he just happened to have stepped out from behind that van for a half a second,” Filbert recalled.

The man’s thick mop of hair and thin frame matched what he had seen in the photos distributed.

“He looked over at me and he stood back and hid behind the van,” Filbert said.

The van was idling. Filbert decided to drive past the van to see if he could get a better look. He passed the driver’s side and saw only someone’s feet beneath the van. He kept going.

He wasn’t about to stop without any other officers to provide cover. But he turned around a few blocks away and saw the van start to pull away from the curb.

“I wasn’t 100% certain he was in the van, but I didn’t see anyone running off,” Filbert said. “It stood to reason he was probably in the van.”

Filbert followed the van as it headed east on Sandy Boulevard. He said it was going only about 20 mph.

He thought about calling for cover officers but had seen the man for only a fraction of a second.

“There was so much doubt in my mind,” he said.

He had been monitoring the search in Northwest Portland for the hospital shooter on his radio. Police were busy evacuating the Stadium Fred Meyer at the time on a report the gunman may have been seen there.

“It was just tearing me apart,” Filbert said. “Do I detract from what 100 guys are doing downtown, knowing I have no cover, there’s nobody in North Precinct and two guys tied up in East Precinct?”

In all his time on the job, he said it was the “most nerve-wracking” decision he has faced.

Filbert kept following the van with the California plates, keeping about a 200-foot distance. He went about another 15 blocks. He decided he had to act when he reached Northeast 150th Avenue.

He couldn’t get any better look at the passenger in the van.

But, he said, “I knew I was right and it was just, ‘Well, I can’t let it go.’”

Filbert pressed the mic on his radio and alerted dispatch: “I think I’m behind the homicide suspect and I know I have no cover in East and North, so I need to have county and Gresham cover me.”

What seemed like 10 minutes for other officers to arrive really took about four or five minutes, he said.

Meanwhile, he kept following the van as it turned south on 181st Avenue. Filbert saw a Gresham police car come north on 181st, do a U-turn and pull in behind him.

He put on his lights and siren and initiated the high-risk stop, emerging from his patrol car with his gun drawn.

“I still didn’t know if he was actually in the van,” Filbert said. “Now everybody in the city was waiting to hear if he was in the van.”

The driver, later identified as 29-year-old Jay Freedman, cooperated and followed each of his commands, he said.

Freedman shut off the van and put his hands out the window. As he was about to step out of the van, the van started up again.

Filbert yelled at the driver to get the keys.

Freedman did just that.

“That saved everything right there, because that could have been bad,” Filbert said, imagining the passenger sliding into the driver’s seat and taking off, leading to what likely would have been a police chase.

Freedman walked backward toward Filbert. He was handcuffed and immediately confirmed that he had a passenger in the van he knew as “Reggie.”

Once police confirmed that “Reggie” was the suspected shooter Calles, “we locked everything down,” Filbert said.

Flibert said he had spent “25 minutes of absolutely doubting myself and my instincts.”

Now, he said, they had the gunman surrounded.

“That was the biggest relief I ever felt,” Filbert said.


Officers blocked traffic on Northeast 181st Avenue and restricted cars from the area.

Police worked to gather as much information on the hospital shooting suspect while officers at the scene waited for the arrival of tactical squads from the Police Bureau’s Special Emergency Response Team and Crisis Negotiation Team.

Calles remained seated in the van “and we just waited,” Filbert said.

He was soon relieved by another Multnomah County sheriff’s sergeant. Filbert helped put up yellow police tape along the avenue to keep people back.

He had accomplished his role but had to stick around until detectives could interview him.

Three other Portland officers that afternoon fired gunshots, killing Calles, 33, on 181st Avenue. Police haven’t said yet whether Calles was armed with a gun when killed. A grand jury must still review the police shooting.

Calles that morning had shot Legacy security guard Bobby Smallwood, 44, in a hallway on the fifth-floor maternity unit at Good Samaritan Medical Center when Smallwood got between Calles who was threatening a nurse, police said. Another employee was injured from shrapnel. Though Smallwood was wearing a ballistics vest, Calles was able to point the gun and shoot the officer under his vest, sources said. Smallwood’s parents said they were told he was shot in the chest. Smallwood was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Filbert didn’t get off work that night until 11:30 p.m. after he was interviewed by detectives.

He said he was just doing what any officer would do. He decided to swing by an address where the suspect had once lived.

“I figured he was trying to get back home to pack up and leave town,” he said. “It was just a hunch, and it paid off.”

Filbert, 52, grew up in East County, attended Southern Oregon University and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After his service, he became a Portland police officer in 1999. He’s served as a sergeant for four years and will be eligible to retire in one more year.

He called that tense Saturday “the most significant day I ever worked.”

“I know to follow my instinct,” he said. “I have an angel on my shoulder that has saved my life many, many times and given me some pretty good pointers. It was telling me I knew I was right.”


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