2017 in review: Homicides in Portland

27 people died as a result of homicidal violence

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- The city's homicide rate increased in 2017 in comparison to 2016 when 20 people died by homicidal violence.

According to Portland Police, 27 people died as a result of homicidal violence in 2017.

Twenty-four  of the victims were male, 3 were female. Three minors were killed; the youngest was 2 years old. The average age of the homicide victims from 2017 was 33 years old. Five of the 27 homicides remain unsolved as of this writing.

Jason Gerald Peterson, 32, was the first person killed in 2017. A Multnomah County grand jury determined that his death, however, was a legally justice under the state's self-defense laws. The investigation began on Monday Feb. 20, 2017, at 2:38 p.m., when police responded to the report of a shooting in the 5800 block of Southeast 82nd Avenue. Detectives learned that Peterson entered the Golden Key Insurance Agency and confronted the business owner and his wife about some missing personal property from the front of the business. The shooting happened outside of the business after Peterson confronted the business owner.

Eleazar "Tony" Herrera Villegas, 59, was found dead on Monday Feb. 27, 2017, at 3:44 p.m., when police responded to the report of a deceased male and a deceased dog inside a residence in the 8300 block of Northeast Sandy Boulevard. On Friday March 3, 2017, police in Hillsboro arrested Alexander Rico Ortiz after linking him to Herrera Villegas' death. Ortiz has since pleaded guilty to raping 2 women in Washington County. His aggravated murder trial is scheduled to start in January. If he does not take a plea deal, it is expected the trial will get pushed back.

Daniel Cohen, 30, was reported as missing on March 29, 2017 after his family reported that he hadn't been seen or heard from. During the investigation, detectives in Portland learned that investigators in Lane County had located a deceased individual. The Oregon State Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the body and determined the cause of death to be homicidal violence. Portland Police detectives worked with the medical examiner and identified the deceased as Cohen. Police arrested old Jessika L. Atkinson and Peter Jirasek for their involvement in Cohen's death. Atkinson has taken a plea deal and is expected to testify against Jirasek if his case goes to trial.

Shawn Scott Jr., 17, died on Tuesday April 11, 2017 inside Holladay Park in Northeast Portland. The shooting happened in broad daylight and was captured on video from the nearby Bonneville Power Administration building. According to police, the video shows 3 people approaching Scott who was standing by a tree inside Holladay Park. The video appears to show Scott selling one of the 3 a bottle of alcohol. After the transaction is done, the 3 individuals start to leave. They immediately return and surround Scott. One of the people took out a gun and hit Scott over the head which caused a round to be fired from the gun. Three people, Miguel Thompson, Malique Kennerly-Hicks and Kole Tabian Jones, have been charged in connection with Scott's murder.

Larry Edwin Van Dolah Jr., 38, was found dead on Saturday April 15, 2017 at an entrance to the Menlo Park Elementary School recreation field. He had been shot multiple times. The case remains unsolved. According to police, the suspects involved with the killing are 3 black males, ages 16 to 20 years old. At the time, they were all wearing hooded sweatshirts. Two of the suspects were wearing blue jeans while the third was wearing dark-colored sweatpants. They were last seen crossing East Burnside Street towards Southeast 129th Avenue. Crime Stoppers of Oregon released a sketch of one of the suspects and a grainy image of the 3 suspects. The photo came from a neighborhood surveillance camera.

Valerie Johnson, 42, was found dead on April 21 at the Motel 6 at Southeast 31st Avenue and Southeast Powell Boulevard. The investigation, according to police, started when police located a suspected stolen vehicle inside the Motel 6's parking lot. Officers set up at the motel to keep an eye on the vehicle. As they were watching the vehicle, they saw Joshua Carlson exit one of the motel's rooms and get into the vehicle and drive off. There was a short police chase, but it was called off because Carlson was reportedly driving so recklessly. Back at the scene, officers entered the motel room that Carlson was seen leaving. When they went inside, they found Johnson dead. An autopsy determined she died of strangulation.

Jacob Shroyer, 37, was stabbed on May 8, 2017 in an attack that police have described as "completely random." His accused killer, Michael Lee Williams, is awaiting trial. Shroyer called 9-1-1 moments after being attacked and told emergency dispatchers that he had been stabbed. Paramedics rushed him to the hospital. He died on May 16. Surveillance video captured the incident and shows Shroyer being stabbed several times by Williams. Shroyer was well-known in the LGBTQ community as a DJ and hair stylist. His family described him as "a strong independent self-made man who loved to make people happy and feel good about themselves."

Brian Bruns, 53, died on Tuesday May 16, 2017 after being involved in a fight and being stabbed in the 4400 block of Southeast 99th Avenue. Police arrested Michael Allen Shipley and charged him with Bruns' death. The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office confirmed that the murder charge against Bruns was dismissed. The case was taken to a grand jury but then withdrawn after the DA's Office determined it would not be able to overcome a self-defense theory. Officials confirmed that if new information is learned, the case could be re-submitted to the grand jury. Bruns has been released from custody.

Ricky Best, 53, and Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 23, died on May 26 after being attacked onboard a MAX train that was pulling into the TriMet Hollywood Transit Station in Northeast Portland. The suspect, Jeremy Christian, was reportedly yelling hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions while on the MAX, according to police. Witnesses told police that Christian seemed to be directing some of his hate speech toward 2 young women. One of the teens was wearing traditional Muslim dress. Micah Fletcher was also stabbed in the altercation. The case is pending trial and has garnered international attention.

Brian Elton Spaulding, 36, was found dead on Monday June 12, 2017 in the 3500 block of Northeast 10th Avenue. Officers determined Spaulding had been shot. About 2 weeks after he was killed, police said, "at this point in the investigation there is no suspect information on known reason why Spauling would be killed." Family members told KOIN 6 News Spaulding worked as a massage therapist at a center in Southeast Portland and for the past 7 years had been a martial arts student at Straight Blast Gym in Northeast Portland. Zach Thornton, a manager and coach at Straight Blast Gym, said Spaulding was "open, kind, really jovial. I never saw him without a smile on his face and I never heard him say a bad thing about somebody before, ever, really." The case remains unsolved.

Irvin Batallia, 22, was considered the city's 12th homicide victim of 2017 even though his body was found on July 7, 2015 at the base of Rocky Butte. The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office officially ruled Batallia's death as homicide in 2017 after a Multnomah County grand jury was convened and reviewed evidence in the case. The grand jury indicted Avonte Armstead on one charge of murder. Armstead remains in custody in Nevada and is expected to be extradited to Oregon sometime in early 2018. Records show police have identified 2 other suspects in the case. Police did not immediately explain their involvement in Batallia's case. Court records do not show that either have been charged, however, it is possible the charges remain under seal.

Taher Ali Alhaji, 24, and Jason Miller, 42, were found dead on Sunday July 23, 2017 after Portland Fire and Rescue responded to reports of a residential fire at the Camp Manor Apartments, located at 9815 Northeast Glisan Street. On Thursday July 27, 2017, detectives arrested Ryan Thomas Monaco in connection to the fire and murders. Detectives learned that Alhaji, Miller and a woman were living in one of the apartment complex's 3-bedroom units. Police learned Monaco and the woman were in a romantic relationship. When the relationship ended, the woman obtained a restraining order against Monaco. Court documents show that Monaco later confessed to soaking the woman's couch with gasoline and pouring gasoline onto the staircase that leads to the apartment. Monaco's trial is pending and isn't scheduled to start until 2019.

Demari Bradley, 2, died on Aug. 7, 2017. His death has been ruled as homicidal violence and police have identified a person of interest in connection with Bradley's death. The case remains under investigation and details of the case have not been disclosed. The person of interest, who is also listed as a "suspect" in PPB databases, has not been criminally charged.

Nattakul Hankittikanjana, 28, was found dead on Aug. 11, 2017. after police responded to  reports of a disturbance. Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Sgt. Chris Burley said detectives have identified the other person involved in the fight that lead to Hankittikanjana's death. According to police, there was no grand jury review of the case. Rather, the DA's Office reviewed the case and determined death of Hankittikanjana was legally justified under the state's self-defense law.

Ryan Thompson, 35, was found dead inside his apartment complex in the 700 block of Southwest Saint Claire Avenue after police said Paris McConville, 34, walked into police headquarters and told officers that she had killed Thompson. During a police interview, McConville told detectives she had killed Thompson near his bed and then moved his body to the apartment's bathtub where he was found dead. The medical examiner's office reported that Thompson had been stabbed and had blunt force trauma to the back of his head. McConville's trial is set for September 2018.

Desmond A. Garrett, 40, was found dead near in Northwest Portland on Thursday Sept. 7, 2017 after police got reports of a shooting. As officers were responding to the reports of a shooting at Northwest 6th Avenue and Northwest Everett Street, callers to 9-1-1 started reporting a car crash had occurred at the intersection of Northwest 5th Avenue and Northwest Everett Street. When officers arrived at the intersection of NW 5th Avenue and NW Everett Street they found a 2-vehicle crash involving a white Mercury sedan and a green Ford pickup. By the time paramedics arrived, Garrett had died. The case remains unsolved.

Wilbert "Billy" Butler, 27, died after being shot multiple times on Sunday Sept. 17, 2017 in the 3600 block of Southeast 28th Avenue. Neighbors reported they heard a volley of rapid gunfire. Police have not released any information about a potential motive. The case remains unsolved.

Lila F. Streeter, 27, was found dead inside a residence in the 17200 block of Southeast Alder Street on Monday Oct. 2, 2017 after officers responded to perform a welfare check at the Alderwood Court Apartments. A family member was concerned about Street. The 9-1-1 caller told police that family members were unable to contact Streeter after they learned she had been assaulted by 28-year-old Robert L. West. He reportedly refused to come out of the residence once police arrived. Police activated their Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) and the unit eventually made entry into the home and located Streeter dead.

Diego Tejeda-Manzo, 21, was found dead on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2017 after police responded the 900 block of Southwest Montgomery Street on the report of a shooting, near the Portland State University campus. Witnesses said there was a fight shortly before the shooting. Court documents show that Tejeda-Manzo was attacked by a group of 3 men. Police have since arrested Nicholas L. Hannan and his half-brother David M. Brown in connection with the case. Brown is only charged with assaulting Tejeda-Manzo while Hannan is charged with murder. Detectives would not confirm if they have identified the 3rd suspect. Court records show that additional charges, however, are expected. Hannan was shot during the melee. KOIN 6 News has learned that a gun was recovered at the scene. Police would not confirm if it was the murder weapon.

Annieka Vaughan, 15, and Zachary Peterson, 23, were both found dead near Pittock Mansion on Nov. 8, 2017 after a several-day search in Forest Park. Vaughan ran away from her family's Washington County home on Oct. 30. Detectives quickly learned that she was likely with Peterson, who was the suspect in a sexual abuse investigation being conducted by the Benton County Sheriff's Office in Washington. Prior to disappearing, Petersen called a crisis line in Washington. He was believed have been suicidal and armed with a gun. The medical examiner determined Petersen killed Vaughan and then killed himself.

Richard Whitmore, 30, died on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. His murder was captured on a building's security system. According to police, Jacob McGhee, who goes by the street name of "Jai" started chasing Whitmore and repeatedly stabbed him. One of the stab wounds transected Whitmore's ribs and cut his heart. A motive to the killing has not been released. A friend of McGhee told police that she confronted him about the murder shortly after it occurred. The woman told police that McGhee bragged about gutting Whitmore. McGhee is due in court on Jan. 4 for a release hearing. Prosecutors are objecting to his release. Records show that McGhee had been living on a boat.

Robert Lee Kaiser, 52, was found dead on Friday Nov. 10, 2017 after officers were dispatched to a residence in the 8100 block of Southeast Glenwood Street. In the morning hours of Monday November 13, the United States Marshals Service Oregon Fugitive Task Force arrested McGinnis at a residence in the 300 block of Southeast 45th Avenue. Police have not released any details about a motive. McGinnis' trial is scheduled for Jan. 9, but will likely be pushed back.

Kacey Platt, 33, was found dead on Tuesday, Nov. 28 after police responded to officers got reports of a shooting and car crash near Southeast Stark Street on Southeast 157th Avenue. In a statement released by the Bureau shortly after Platt's death, detectives do not believe the suspects in the shooting pose an immediate danger to the public. The case remains unsolved.

Lexington Boswell, 30, was shot 10 years ago when he was 20 years old. Boswell, didn't die until Nov. 30, 2017 at which point his death was officially ruled as a homicide. The shooting, according to Portland Police archives, happened on June 15, 2007 in the 9600 block of North Clarendon Avenue. Four other people were shot in what police described as a drive-by shooting that was potentially gang-related. Boswell's injuries were considered life-threatening. The suspect in the shooting, Christopher Gaston, died in 2007. A warrant had been issued for his arrest days after the shooting. The case was then dismissed in September 2007 when prosecutors learned Gaston died. Details of his death were not immediately known at the time of this writing.

Brian Nees, 64, was killed on Dec. 2, 2017 in the area of Southeast 72nd Avenue and Woodstock Street. Detectives quickly identified Tyler Nees as the suspect. Police have not said why Nees killed his father. Late last year, the DA's Office filed paperwork with the courts indicating that if they are able to get a conviction, they will be seeking an enhanced sentence. In the letter, Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks wrote in 2014 Tyler Nees was convicted of attempted second-degree assault. The case originated as a second-degree assault case but was resolved through plea negations. The assault charge came after Nees attacked a disabled man whom he encountered on a TriMet bus. Nees hit the man in with a champagne bottle in what was described as an unprovoked attack. In 2009, Nees attacked his father was at home and in bed. "In sum, Mr. Nees has an extraordinary record of violent, threatening behavior and assaultive conduct, toward others, both in and out of custody." Records show that Nees had attacked jail inmates and staff within Multnomah County.


Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in any unsolved felony crime and tipsters can remain anonymous.

Information about any unsolved homicide is eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,500. Information about any other unsolved felony crime is eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.

Information learned from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube should be shared as these tips may lead to the identification of a suspect or suspects. Links can be shared anonymously through Crime Stoppers.

Submit an anonymous tip:
  • Visit the App Store and download P3 Tips to submit secure and anonymous tips.
  • Online at https://www.p3tips.com/823
  • Call 503-823-HELP (4357)

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