Portland shootings continue as leaders struggle to slow surge

Crime

Police investigate two late Monday night shootings after staffing changes are announced in response to increase in gun violence

Gunfire struck multiple vehicles in NE Portland’s Cully neighborhood Tuesday night, Dec. 15, 2020. (Portland Police Bureau)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Shootings continued in Portland late Monday even as city leaders struggled to slow the surge that began earlier this year.

Police responded to two shootings before midnight on Dec. 21, including one where a person was wounded. The name of the victim was not immediately released and no suspect information was immediately available, either.

The most recent shootings occurred three days after Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a series of staffing changes and upcoming budget requests in response to the increase that has already more than doubled the number of shootings this year compared to 2019. In his Dec. 18 announcement, Wheeler said that beginning immediately, more detectives will be assigned to investigate and follow up on shootings, and more outreach and hospital-based trauma responders will be deployed to support near-term reductions in the ongoing gun violence epidemic.

In addition, Wheeler said he had directed the Portland Police Bureau and the Office of Violence Prevention to submit short-term budget requests to further slow the shooting surge. Wheeler said he will lobby the City Council to approve the requests this spring.

Wheeler’s late Friday afternoon announcement came hours after a 53-year-old woman was shot and killed in North Portland after reportedly being caught in gang-related gunfire. Kelley Marie Smith was delivering food as an Uber driver with her husband when she was killed.

The most recent investigations began at about 11:16 p.m. Monday when police responded to reports of shots heard in the area on Northeast 7th Avenue and Northeast Alberta Street, and in the neighborhood to the north and west. Officers heard the shots, too, and spread out in the area to investigate.

Moments later, people in the neighborhood, and police, heard more shots west of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Killingsworth Street. Police encountered a person in that area suffering from what appeared to be gunshot wounds. The victim was transported by ambulance to a hospital to be treated. Police said the wounds did not appear to be life-threatening.

Officers canvassed the area for witnesses and evidence. In addition to the victim, officers found shell casings and bullet strikes to a vehicle that seemed to correspond to this incident.

Then, at about 11:57 p.m., the police responded to the area of Northeast 72nd Avenue near Northeast Glisan Street on the report of shots fired. Officers found shell casings and bullet strikes to an unoccupied residence.

There is no evidence to suggest these incidents were related, police said.

Shootings and deaths have increased since the council abolished the PPB’s Gun Violence Reduction Team on July 1 following the abolition of the Portland Police Bureau’s Gun Violence Reduction Team in July following racial justice protests. The GVRT had been criticized for focusing on members of the Black community at a disproportionate rate.

“Our job is to prioritize our response to the many challenges facing our city. We all agree gun violence requires immediate attention and action, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Wheeler said on Dec. 18.

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