Trailer for Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse.

On Sept. 17, 2006 James Chasse was stopped by three law enforcement officers in Portland, Oregon in broad daylight. A dozen eyewitnesses watched in horror as the officers tackled, beat, kicked, and tasered James until he lay motionless on the pavement with 16 broken ribs and a punctured lung. He died in the custody of Portland police about two hours later.

James had not committed a crime, so why did the officers attack him? Who was James Chasse? The officers told eyewitnesses he was a drug dealer, a homeless person, a non-person, a ghost. But that wasn’t true at all. James was a writer, an illustrator, and a musician; he had a home and a family and friends who loved him. He was a small, shy, gentle person who had been living with schizophrenia for most of his life.

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse examines his childhood, his intense involvement in the early Portland punk music scene (The Wipers wrote the song "Alien Boy" about him), the heart-breaking teenage onset of his schizophrenia, and his brave efforts to avoid institutionalization and maintain his independence.

Using interviews, personal writings, archival footage, official documents and videotaped depositions of the involved police officers, the film explores James Chasse's life and the police actions and decisions that led to his death. What emerges is an intimate and complex story of one man's life, the Chasse family’s struggle for justice, and a city and a system grappling with accountability.

2 min 17 sec


Posted On
January 10, 2014
Brian Lindstrom

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Breaking Glass Pictures

February 15, 2013
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