‘Gang-affected people’ wounded at Gresham vigil


Shootings part of the recent spike in gun violence

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — The young man accused of a Gresham murder made his first court appearance Wednesday, but no one has yet been arrested in connection with the Monday night shooting that left 7 people wounded at a vigil for the slain man.

Alejandro Barajas, 22, in an undated photo. He was shot to death in Gresham on April 25, 2021 (KOIN)

Omar Cibrian Gongora, 21, is accused of shooting and killing 22-year-old Alejandro Barajas on Sunday night. He was taken into custody around the same time that 7 people — 4 men and 3 women — were shot Monday night. All are expected to survive.

Authorities said Gongora is not connected with the mass shooting and the investigation into that case continues. No one has yet been arrested.

When asked if the shooting was gang-related, Gresham police officials told KOIN 6 News, “There were gang-affected people at the vigil.”

Rise in gun violence

Gresham City Council President Eddy Morales dropped out of high school after losing two brothers to gun violence. He said community programs designed to help at-risk youth made the difference for him. He added more investment is needed into those programs to prevent gun violence and address the root causes.

Gresham City Council President Eddy Morales, April 28, 2021 (KOIN)

“Those involved are experiencing physical and mental trauma, layered upon decades of trauma already inflicted, especially disproportionately on Black, Brown, indigenous and people of color,” Morales said.

Lionel Irving, who founded Love Is Stronger, Inc. and We Are The Caution, knows how hard it can be to break the cycle of violence.

“It’s heart hurting, heart wrenching, right, and scary at the same time, right, because the shooters are so brazen and then, and angry at the reaction from the community,” he said.

He was once in a gang and went to prison for shooting someone. Gangs, he said, are generational.

“I lived this stuff for real and I don’t want anyone else to go through it because once you get inside the prison, it’s like a world you’ve never seen before,” Irving said. “It’s a world that you’ve never seen (and) you never want to see again.”

He said we need to identify “these kids who already got problems. Their dads might not be there, their parents might be on drugs, so we know they’re suffering from some type of mental health issues. We have to identify them early and we have to put them with people who can be consistent.”

Morales said it’s going to take more than one group or agency to stop the shootings. That’s why he’s working on a program that would provide a more coordinated response to gun violence across the metro area.

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