Thirteen shootings tied to gangs in the last two weeks in North, Northeast, Southeast and downtown Portland have left three people dead.
PORTLAND — Twenty-one bullets riddled a North Portland house, just after midnight nearly two weeks ago. Police found 35 shell casings at the scene.
On Oct. 2, a 21-year-old out of custody on weapons charges fatally shot two men outside a Montavilla neighborhood pub.
This past Sunday, bullets whizzed through five rooms at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion Inn, wounding two women and disrupting a birthday party on a hotel-room balcony. Police recovered 32 shell casings there.
Thirteen shootings tied to gangs in the past two weeks in North, Northeast, Southeast and downtown Portland have left three people dead and pushed the city’s gang-violence calls to 146 so far this year. It’s the highest count since Portland police began recording the calls in 1998 and far above last year’s total of 109.
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“The violence is all over,” said Sgt. Don Livingston, a supervisor of the Police Bureau’s Gang Enforcement Team. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it.”
With six detectives and 25 officers, the team is focusing on investigating shootings that cause injuries and the ones where detectives can gather the most leads for an arrest, said Lt. Mike Krantz, supervisor of the bureau’s tactical operations division.
Portland gang investigators said members of the Rolling 60s Crips, Kerby Blocc Crips, Woodlawn Bloods, Unthanks and Hoover gangs have been involved in the violence.
They’re not necessarily tit-for-tat retaliatory shootings, but instead more likely to be over perceived slights, drug ripoffs or disputes over a woman, Krantz said.
“We can’t point to one thing,” he said.
That makes it harder for police, gang-outreach workers and probation officers to try to stem the tide.
“It’s like a lightning strike — once one hits, I have no idea when the next lightning’s going to be back,” said North Precinct’s Capt. Matt Wagenknecht. “It’s so random.”
Remarkably, no one was injured Sept. 26 in the home in the 9100 block of North Endicott Street when the 21 bullets hit. They were all asleep in the back of the residence. White police markings remain on the outside of the house, identifying each of the bullet holes. The back window of a car parked in the driveway next door was shattered.
“I heard the shots. It was a lot — pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. It scared me,” said neighbor Phil Bonneau. “It is concerning to me that someone would do such a thing in my neighborhood.”
Law enforcement, probation and parole officers and juvenile counselors have met to share information and ask, “Is there something we’re not doing right and can we do it better?” said Antoinette Edwards, director of the city’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention.
Portland police were clear that they’re disturbed that a man was released from jail while facing weapons charges. “Being that we deal with the most violent crimes, in my opinion, if you have a gun charge, you shouldn’t be eligible for release,” Krantz said.
Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden said police are being encouraged to stamp “GUN” on all custody sheets for people arrested on weapons charges. That’s an extra step to alert county jail officials that the accused should not be released from custody. Police already routinely do that on domestic-violence cases to keep people in jail.
Snowden also sent emails to all gang-enforcement prosecutors and some neighborhood-based deputy district attorneys, asking them to alert her and Senior Deputy District Attorney Glen Banfield if they are about to dismiss a weapons charge in a gang-related case.
“Even if we have to reject a charge because we need additional reports or evidence tested, we can still call over to probation and possibly detain a person for violating their probation conditions by associating with other known gang members,” Snowden said.
Police and probation officers said they’re also finding local men involved in shootings featured in music videos that glamorize the gang life. They can be detained for violating probation, if they’ve already been prohibited from associating with other gang members as part of their probation conditions, probation officers said.
Lucy Mashia, who lost her 34-year-old son, Leonard James “L.J.” Irving Jr., in a Portland shooting in June 2011, expressed frustration that the day-to-day, gang violence doesn’t receive the same type of attention as, for example, the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, where a gunman killed nine people and wounded nine others before taking his own life.
“I didn’t see 100 people doing vigils for my baby,” Mashia said. “This is a community problem. All lives matter.”