Guns come out as mercury starts to rise
- Jennifer Anderson
- Portland Tribune - News
City's latest shooting injures a 16-year-old near Jefferson High
Shootings in the city are on the rise in neighborhoods with a history of gang activity.
In the last two weeks, two people have died and at least three have been injured in several shootings in those neighborhoods.
Most recently, a 16-year-old was shot Wednesday afternoon by someone who walked up to his car while he was at a stop sign at North Haight Avenue and Killingsworth Street, near Jefferson High School in the Humboldt neighborhood. A police spokesman said the boy, who was not a student at the school, underwent surgery at a local hospital but his injuries were not life threatening.
Detectives are investigating the incident; a suspect has not been named.
Police attribute the recent spate of shootings to warmer weather, which brings more people outside.
'As the weather changes and people start getting out of school, we normally see an increase in shots-fired calls, and sometimes they result in shootings,' said Det. Sgt. Scott Johnson of Northeast Precinct. 'That's just normal in the city. É People start showing up; old vendettas get brought up. Unless we're right there, there's nothing much we can do, other than keeping them off the streets.'
Already this year in Portland, there were 17 shootings in January, 21 in February and 26 in March. The first two months were below the city's six-year average; the numbers in March have climbed to slightly higher than that average.
If those first-quarter numbers continue at the same rate, shootings this year will eclipse last year's total of 241 citywide. The monthly rate typically continues to climb throughout spring and peaks in July.
In the last 16 years, shootings hit their highest numbers in the mid-1990s as gangs took to the streets and drug wars erupted. The rate has fallen steadily since then, with the 188 shootings in 2001 marking a 15-year low.
Police said it's tough to gauge when another active cycle will begin. It depends on who's in and out of prison, who's in town and who uses a chance encounter on the street as an opportunity to retaliate for a past shooting.
'There's no rhyme and reason to it,' said Officer Rafe Cancio of the tactical operations division. 'It's not like people are hunting each other down like in the old days, when it was really vicious.'
Though many community members are upset with recent incidents, the shots aren't fazing some neighbors, who've accepted occasional bouts of crime as part of the urban environment.
'I've never felt endangered at all,' said a resident of the Eliot neighborhood, where 30-year-old Jason L. Eyle Sr. was shot to death in front of his home last Saturday morning. But, the neighbor said, he keeps a weapon in his home just in case.
Steve Maxwell, who lives in the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Woodlawn, says he also feels that violence in the area isn't as big an issue as it once was, despite the fact that two of his neighbors were injured Monday in a drive-by shooting outside their home.
His main concern, he said, is for the safety of the children who walk to and from nearby Woodlawn Park and Woodlawn Elementary School.
'I guess here we go again, getting ready for the spring and summer months,' said Maxwell, who works with the Portland Urban Ministry Project. 'Hopefully this isn't an indication of things to come.'
The victims of Monday's shooting, which occurred in the 900 block of Northeast Oneonta Street, were recovering from gunshot wounds at local hospitals on Thursday: Rashard C. Johnson, 23, was in serious condition; Serenity A. Capers, 20, was in fair condition.
Police say the two were shot shortly after 1 a.m. as they sat in a car parked outside their home. Broken glass littered the street Monday afternoon, and a trail of blood marked their front porch; police said the victims went into the house after they were shot.
Neighbors said they heard four to six shots, but no one saw the assailant or assailants. Police haven't determined a motive in either case.
Drug activity suggested
In Eyle's case, it's unclear whether the slaying was drug related. Court records show he had three felony convictions in the early 1990s for possessing crack cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm. In 1992, court records indicated he was a Blood gang member.
His family said Eyle, the father of four young children, graduated from Grant High School and worked as an assembler for Tektronix Inc.
At least two neighbors of Eyle on the 500 block of Northeast Fargo Street said they think Eyle sold drugs. They said they called police several times about what they deemed suspicious activity, such as people sitting in cars and traffic around the house at all hours of the night.
One neighbor said he heard shots early Saturday morning and looked outside to see a McDonald's bag sitting on top of Eyle's car, as if he had just returned from a late-night food run. Eyle's body had rolled under the car, he said.
Several neighbors said the shots sounded like they came from the direction of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said the shots were fired from the passenger side of the car. He said detectives are hoping to hear from witnesses. A funeral was held Wednesday in North Portland.
Lela Camel, 77, who has lived down the block from Eyle's home for 50 years, said she'll remember him fondly. 'To me, he's just a sweet kid, and he'll always be like that,' she said, noting that she treated him as one of her own grandchildren.
Tonya Dickens, coordinator of the city's Youth Gang Outreach program, said she knew Eyle as a personal friend.
'He was a very giving and loving person,' she said. 'He had his own demons in his closet, just like everyone else.'
Suspect named in second death
Another recent shooting death includes the March 28 slaying of 31-year-old Carlos Hernandez-Sanchez. He was killed in an apartment in the 600 block of Southeast 162nd Avenue and then moved outside into the parking lot, police said.
Police have not revealed a motive for the Hernandez-Sanchez shooting, but Schmautz said detectives are searching for a suspect in the case, 18-year-old Theron Dalon Hall, known on the streets as 'T.'
Police said Hall frequents the Rockwood Transit Center area, and he is considered armed and dangerous. Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to resolution of the case. People can leave anonymous tips at 503-823-4357 (HELP).
Anyone with information on any case is asked to call detectives, 503-823-0400.