PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A survivor of an assault caught on camera in downtown Portland is sharing her story, as her attacker appeared in Multnomah County court on Tuesday.
The woman who was attacked preferred to keep her name private, going only by her initials S.F. She says she knows she’s not alone, as random acts of violence have plagued Portland recently, which is why she believes it’s time to speak up.
“I’m not going to run and hide. I’m going to stand strong,” she said.
S.F. got off the Max in downtown Portland, shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday Dec. 2 and walked down SE 11th Street before turning onto Alder Street.
What she didn’t realize at the time was that a man, Joseph Ibrahim, started following her.
Ibrahim snuck up behind S.F., striking her in the head with a heavy bag and slamming her to the ground. She later learned there was a metal lantern inside his backpack that caused the painful blow.
“I was gone. It was a complete knockout,” S.F. said.
In that violent moment, everything went dark. She said she thought she was dead.
“I look around,” she said. “There’s no one around except for Ibrahim, who’s at this corner where we’re standing. And he looks at me as if to say, ‘I got you. And I got you good.'”
She stayed down on the pavement in panic.
“I don’t know if I’m hurt and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if he’s going to come back to cross the street,” S.F. said.
Workers nearby came to her rescue and police responded, later arresting 18-year-old Ibrahim a couple of blocks away.
The following business day, S.F. called the Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt’s office about her assault and harassment case.
“So I had called at 9 a.m. and he explained to me that [Ibrahim] was going to be released and there was nothing I could do about it,” she said.
The county’s reasoning for his release, she said, was because he was a first-time offender.
But just days after Ibrahim’s release, police arrested him again, this time for brutally breaking into a family’s home in NW Portland while they were eating dinner, just three blocks from where he originally hit S.F.
She said that he shouldn’t have been released so soon in the first place, only to victimize another family.
“They’re going to be traumatized for a while. I know I am,” S.F. said.
Both victims in these cases told KOIN 6 News they feel like the criminal justice system is failing them.
“It tells me, one, we have to speak up as victims for ourselves, we need to advocate for ourselves, that we can’t trust the city to look out for our interests. And so that means, secondly, that the city needs to change,” S.F. said.
When questioning District Attorney Mike Schmidt about these connected cases, he said, in short, that it’s complicated.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing what we can, but we operate within the constraints of the system that we have. But we take these cases very seriously,” Schmidt said.
He said these kinds of challenges will take a multi-faceted approach to resolve.
“That means we need to connect people with mental health resources. That’s where our big disconnect is,” Schmidt said. “Sometimes addiction, sometimes incarceration, sometimes it’s jail and sometimes a combination of all those things.”
While residents wait for more mental health resources, victims say public spaces and the privacy of their homes need to be safe.
“It’s not criminalizing mental illness. It is holding someone who is violent towards others accountable and keeping them off the streets,” S.F. said.
She hopes Ibrahim will receive the rehabilitation help he needs, so he won’t hurt anyone else.
After experiencing the unimaginable, she’s trying to show up for other victims who didn’t get a voice in the justice system.
“I like to put the responsibility and ownership on us citizens and I believe that if we speak up and say this is not acceptable in our community, that the justice system will need to adjust their focus,” she said.
While police, the district attorney, courts, and judges all have different roles to play in this kind of problem, authorities told KOIN 6 they’re trying to the best of their abilities to not let people like Ibrahim, slip through the cracks.
According to court documents, Ibrahim is homeless and he told court officials he attacked the initial victim because she is a “Blue n-word.” Court documents show he also admitted to smoking meth before breaking into the family’s home in NW Portland.
Based on a recent mental health evaluation, the judge determined that Ibrahim is not able to participate in his trial because of the severity of his mental illness.
He’ll be back in court next week, which is when the judge is planning on likely sending him to the Oregon State Hospital.