VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — A Black family in Vancouver has been the target of multiple recent attacks — attacks they believe are racially motivated.
Nini Johnson is a mother of four. She lives with her children and her mom in the same neighborhood she’s been in for 19 years but has only recently experienced several acts of vandalism: she found a bullet hole in her garage door, a window in her home was smashed by a brick and another brick was thrown at her car’s windshield.
Johnson said they’re “the only African American people in the community.” Her relatives and friends therefore suspect that they’re the victims of hate crimes.
“First one was the gun shot to our garage and actually my 16-year-old nephew was in there with his friends,” Johnson said. “They heard the gun go off and we didn’t know what happened, from my understanding it was super early in the morning.”
Johnson said they reported the gunfire to Vancouver police and officers came out to investigate the scene. But the family said they heard nothing more after that.
Then while they were vacationing in Chicago, a relative called Johnson to let her know that someone had thrown a brick through the front window of her house.
“No one heard or saw anything,” Johnson said.
The third incident, which took place August 9, was the last straw.
“Someone throws the same type of brick through my car window and at that point after it happened a third time — it’s time for me to speak out about it,” said Johnson. “We’ve never had anything like this happen at our home. For this to happen out of nowhere is just like why?”
But despite getting in touch with the police again and asking neighbors for clues, Johnson says she simply can’t get any answers. She said the police told her they would dispatch patrols to her neighborhood but she hasn’t seen any in the area.
KOIN 6 News reached out to the Vancouver Police Department and was informed extra patrols had been sent to the neighborhood after the most recent attack but officers found nothing suspicious. Police said the incidents are not being investigated as hate crimes.
“On all three occasions, detailed police reports were made,” said Vancouver police spokesperson Kim Kapp. “In the August incident, the Police Service Technician forwarded information to patrol for their awareness of the three incidents, requesting additional patrol in this area as available as there is no suspect information and no witnesses have been located. It is unknown if any of these incidents are connected.”
On Friday, Aug. 21, two days after KOIN 6 News aired this story, Vancouver police released a statement that said they’ve responded to this residence 24 times since August 2018.
“Many of the calls for service for this location are related to criminal investigations involving individuals associated with that address ranging from robbery, kidnapping, and gun and drug crimes,” police said in their statement. “The Vancouver Police Department has written dozens of reports documenting these criminal investigations to include an incident in October 2019 involving a suspect of armed robbery and kidnap who fled to that residence following commission of his crimes. He is currently lodged at the Clark County Jail awaiting trial.”
Vancouver police did not clarify if these individuals were residents.
The complete lack of leads has unsettled Johnson.
“It’s very uncomfortable, it’s very scary because we don’t have an idea we don’t know who is doing this, why they are doing this,” Johnson said. “I’m like — is this because of my involvement with the Black Lives Matter protesting?”
Johnson said a couple of women in Clark County reached out in support after she posted about the attacks on social media. One of the women, Shelly Prothro, even helped install a security camera at the house. Johnson said she’s grateful for their help because it helped her climb out of a “very dark place.”
“I don’t want to be here anymore; I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what to expect from anyone anymore. I’d rather move my kids somewhere they can go outside and play with kids that look like them,” she said.
One of the women who reached out to Johnson, Faith Lightsy, told KOIN 6 News the group S.T.R.I.V.E. Clark County Washington is hosting a peaceful demonstration Friday at Johnson’s local police precinct from 3-6 p.m. The address is 520 SE 155th Avenue in Vancouver.
“We are asking the police to do their jobs. We are asking the community to be a community,” said Prothro. “Watch out for your neighbors.”