The slaying of 18-year-old Larry Ma, a Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood resident, who had recently graduated from David Douglas High School as an inter-district transfer student, is currently a tragic mystery.
No one has come forward to say why Ma had been driving his Mercedes SLK roadster on S.E. 135th Avenue near Lincoln City Park, a little after 10 pm on July 20. That's about 5.5 miles distant from his home on S.E. 62nd Avenue, south of S.E. Duke Street, but near the high school he used to attend.
Outer East Portland resident Albert Bixler said he heard loud explosions that didn't sound like fireworks, that evening, at his home just south of the park. 'It was a rapid series of bangs - it seemed like five or six of them.'
Another neighbor said that when he heard the commotion, he went out and saw a car plowed into his neighbor's front yard, with a person inside who was 'slumped over, from the driver's side into the passenger side.'
The car had what appeared to be bullet holes along the driver's side of the car.
Soon, police had S.E. 135th Avenue cordoned off from S.E. Mill Street south to S.E. Sherman. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Mobile precinct rolled in, and set up just north of Sherman, as detectives and criminalists came into the area.
PPB Public Information Officer Lt. Robert King reported that the police were called to the scene at 10:20 pm, where 'Officers found a man shot. Medical personnel responded, and transported the victim to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.'
At the same time, other officers and command staff were massing on S.E. 139th Avenue near S.E. Taylor Street, on reports that a gunman might have ducked into a residence just north of that intersection.
'Those reports turned out to be false, but with the potential of a person with a gun in the neighborhood, we always check out all leads as quickly as possible,' Sgt. Pete Simpson later told THE BEE.
Soon after Lt. King met with reporters, the crime scene perimeter was moved south to S.E. Division Street, because the shooting investigation had become a murder case - Ma died soon after arriving at OHSU.
'Detectives have learned that the victim, Larry Ma, was shot while seated in his car, somewhere north of where officers found him on 135th Avenue,' Lt. King later said. 'Detectives believe that the victim was shot, and then drove his car southbound for a few blocks before crashing into the yard of a home at 2214 S.E. 135th Avenue.'
The reported homeowner at that address, Linda Asburry, walked away when we attempted to speak with her, but she told other media that the car which had knocked down the front-yard fence of her ranch-style home had been 'riddled with bullets', and the man inside 'appeared badly wounded'.
'At this time, detectives are unable to determine if the shooting might be gang or drug related,' King said. 'Detectives do not believe this was a drive-by shooting. The Oregon State Medical Examiner determined that Ma died of a gunshot wound.' However, those who knew Ma said he was not a gang member and was not involved in drugs.
As the sun set over Ma's modest family home on June 21, more than 100 mourners - many of them fellow DDHS students - stood in shocked disbelief of the violent death of what many of them described as 'the happiest guy I knew'. Based on many accounts, he was said to be an ideal student who got along with everyone.
One of Ma's neighbors, who said he lives a couple doors down from the family, said he'd often see young people gathering at the home, but he never saw the parents.
As detectives continued their investigation, speaking with family members and friends, an informal memorial was appearing where Ma's car had come to rest. As we watched, two young ladies got out of a car that stopped nearby and tidied up the site, and one tenderly ran her fingers through a DDHS high school graduation tassel hung on Ma's photograph, before leaving.