KPTV, TYLER CHASE, CNN
By Adrian Thomas
PORTLAND Oregon (KPTV) — FOX 12 Investigates learned Tuesday the Multnomah County Medical examiner had legally declared a Portland man dead, then months later discovered that same man was very much alive.
A spokesperson for the Multnomah County Medical Examiner admits a mistake was made on Sept. 11 of last year when 23-year-old Portland resident, Tyler Chase was declared dead from a drug overdose.
It turns out Chase is alive and well, and his family contacted FOX 12 investigates late last month wanting to share their story, after learning Chase was alive on Dec. 19.
After FOX 12 Investigates reached out to Multnomah County about this story, the medical examiner’s office admitted to the mistake, and is now promising a change in policy.
In a statement, the county admits it was not until Dec. 18 they realized an error had been made in declaring Tyler Chase deceased on Sept 11, and contacted Chase and his family the next day.
The 23-year-old Chase has been living in a recovery program for the last several months after struggling on the streets with substance abuse, and not having contact with his family for several years. In an interview with FOX 12 Investigates, Chase says he learned of the issue when his food assistance benefits were not active after he was approved for them in October. I go to DHS, and they asked me to enter my social security and everything, and they were like ‘alright we’ll see if we can help you fix this,’” said Chase. “And then all of the sudden they start interrogating me and were like ‘Oh can we see your ID?’ So I gave it to them and then they just looked as confused as I was and they’re like ‘right here it says you are dead. ”Chase says it was a shock, who still had not been able to track down his family. What Chase did not know is that his family had received a formal death certificate, and an urn full of ashes, that were actually a stranger’s.
Chase tells us on Dec. 19, officials from Multnomah County’s medical examiner’s office found him at the recovery center where’s he is living, and admitted to the mistake they made in wrongfully declaring him dead. Chase adds county officials informed him the man that was found dead in Portland had been carrying his wallet that was believed to have been stolen from him at the recovery center where Chase is living. County officials and Chase say that in the wallet, the only form of identification was a temporary Oregon driver’s license.
“So they find a paper ID of me that’s smudged and everything and they were like ‘that’s Tyler John Chase,’ so they put him down as me,” said Chase. “And then they notified the family like protocol.”
The Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office would not name the deceased man who was mistakenly identified as Chase. A spokesperson for the office sent a statement to FOX 12 Investigates admitting their mistake and promising a change in policy.
“We deeply regret that the misidentification happened,” a county spokesperson said in the statement. “The misidentification occurred because the deceased person was carrying Mr. Tyler Chase’s wallet and his official temporary Oregon driver’s license.”
The statement also says in part, that the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office is making changes after what happened with Tyler Chase and the confusion experienced by his family.
“The medical examiner’s office also launched a comprehensive review to identify any gaps in current practices and is working to implement an institutional change. Going forward, all individuals who are found with a temporary state-issued identification must also have fingerprints submitted for positive identification, to ensure that this will never happen again.”
In the coming week, FOX 12 Investigates will sit down with Chase and one of his family members to hear more about how they navigated this difficult situation, and take a deeper dive into policy surrounding how people are identified when they die.
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