FBI: Portland gun violence ‘beyond a public safety crisis’

Crime

FBI will be on the streets responding to shootings this weekend

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With news of an “imminent” threat of gun violence in Portland, Police Chief Chuck Lovell and an FBI official spoke about violence reduction efforts during a media briefing on Saturday.

The Portland City Council announced police and the FBI will be on the streets of the city for the next few days, citing intelligence that there are “imminent” efforts from outside groups to “engage and advance gun violence” this weekend. PPB Chief Lovell joined Oregon FBI Special Agent in Charge Keiran Ramsey on Saturday to discuss what authorities are doing to mitigate the violence permeating the city.

“There’s a cycle of violence here that we’re trying to break,” Lovell said. “There’s retaliation and things of that nature that we’re really concerned about, which are driving the actions we’re going to take this weekend.”

In a statement on Friday, City Council noted the 7 people that were shot at a vigil recently in Gresham and highlighted the fact there are several vigils and funerals planned in Portland in the coming days. They say these vigils are credible targets for further violence — and Lovell echoed that sentiment in Saturday’s briefing.

“This is really just part of a larger effort that we’re engaging in,” the police chief explained. “We’re doing our part to ensure the community that we want people to feel safe — [we want people to be] able to go out and grieve in a safe manner.”

Special Agent Ramsey said at this point, the gun violence in Portland is “beyond a public safety crisis.”

“We said it was a public safety crisis three months ago — and unfortunately, this trend of gun violence in the metro area has continued,” Ramsey said. “We are now in a crisis mode where we are trying to call upon all of our partners. All of us in law enforcement agree that partnership must be the way we address this going forward — but this partnership needs to go beyond law enforcement.”

Law enforcement agencies have reportedly been reaching out to community partners, such as faith-based organizations, elected leaders — anyone who has a way to get in front of a person who may potentially participate in violence — to plead with those people to choose a different path.

“The metro area is not supposed to be this way — we all agree on that, it’s an obvious statement to make,” Ramsey said. “But now it’s at the point where we need to step up together to put a stop to this.”

Lovell said the bureau and its law enforcement partners will have a highly visible presence, aiming to deter those who may participate in violence. With their visible presence, authorities hope to de-escalate situations and provide safety to the community.

“Our goal is a message of safety — we want people to know we’ll be doing our part to keep the community safe,” Lovell said. “We want the people who would come here and engage in gun violence to know we will be out, we will be active and we will be looking to hold people who do shootings accountable.” 

Throughout the press briefing, Lovell and Ramsey repeatedly referred to “groups” participating in gun violence. When asked to put a name to them and identify those groups, Lovell did as much.

“I would say these are gang-related shootings and gang-related retaliation,” he said. “That’s what so troubling — because you have the potential for one shooting becoming two, becoming three and that’s really the worry for us.”

Ramsey added the nature of these gang-related shootings is where the FBI’s resources can add support to the local law enforcement agencies.

In a release on Friday, Ramsey said they know there are groups retaliating against other groups “for perceived grievances. We also know that the number of bullets being fired – often dozens at any given scene – keep going until they hit something or someone. There are random, innocent victims who did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Saturday’s briefing took place mere hours after yet another shooting in Multnomah County.

Just after 7:30 a.m., a woman was shot and injured near Ventura Park in Southeast Portland. Her injuries were non-life-threatening, but she was transported to a local hospital.

No arrests were made and no suspect information is available. When asked, Chief Lovell did not explicitly state the coordinated efforts were in place for this specific incident, but Agent Ramsey did say the FBI is aware and tracking the situation.

In a statement about bringing the FBI to Portland, Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty, Mingus Mapps, Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan said the city learned “three alarming things” that led to the decision:

  • Groups involved in this violence have issued an order to shoot someone in the next 30 days or be shot for not showing loyalty.
  • Individuals and groups are here in Portland from Washington and California to engage in and advance gun violence. 
  • These actions begin a retaliatory cycle that only escalates. The current trajectory of the rising violence is unacceptable, and it requires immediate action. 

In a statement, the FBI said they will be on the streets with members of the Metro Safe Streets Task Force responding to shootings.

“It will be a very visible effort with two goals in mind. First, the task force wants to show the community that it is working to bring peace to the streets. Second, the task force wants shooters to know that law enforcement is working assertively to find them and arrest them,” the FBI said.

Officials said so far this year in Portland there have been 31 homicides, 23 of which involved gunfire. At this point last year, there were 4 homicides.

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