A mass shooting in downtown Portland, shortly before last call on Saturday morning, killed an 18-year-old woman and injured six others near a line of food carts in what police described as “an extremely chaotic scene.”
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the killing, along with another fatal shooting four hours later in the Parkrose neighborhood, in deep Northeast Portland, marked the city’s 50th and 51st homicides of the year. Portland saw 55 homicides in 2020, a 26-year record but one on pace to be broken by the end of July.
In the past 36 hours, Lovell said, Portland had 11 shooting incidents, killing two people and injuring at least 11.
In a press conference this afternoon, Lovell and Mayor Ted Wheeler described the Portland Police Bureau as unprepared and outmatched by a wave of gunfire across the city.
“What we need is a plan,” Wheeler said. “The plan has to acknowledge that the public safety needs of this city are changing and they are changing rapidly. It’s clear to me that we do not have the adequate resources deployed on our streets in a proactive way.”
Lovell blamed a wave of officers leaving the force—125 in the last year, he said—leaving police incapable of patrolling all the neighborhoods hit by gunfire.
“We’ve had many years of growth as a city and a shrinking police department,” the chief said. “You can only go so far in that direction before you reach a tipping point.”
As of July 6, the city had seen 579 shooting incidents in 2021—more than double the number at that time in 2020. For months, city leaders have bitterly debated whether to increase staffing for a police force that saw its budget trimmed amid racial justice protests last year and is dogged by repeated allegations of excessive force.
But the shooting along Southwest 3rd Avenue this morning was still shocking.
It occurred three blocks south of Ankeny Alley, the center of an Old Town nightlife district where dance clubs are once again packed to capacity after pandemic shutdowns. That “entertainment district,” which was once fenced off and surrounded by police squad cars on weekend nights, now sees a sparse police presence, despite what club security services describe as a gang war occurring near the queues for their venues.
The mass shooting occurred shortly before 2:10 am Saturday, police said, one block north of a food cart row on 3rd. Witnesses told The Oregonian that a blue car sped away shortly after shots were fired. PPB has offered few details of the incident, except to say it believes more people may have been injured than officers have accounted for. “They found an extremely chaotic scene with lots of injured people,” Lovell said.
Asked by WW why police presence in the Old Town entertainment district was scant, Lovell said those officers were reassigned after COVID shutdowns reduced nightlife, and implied that the bureau was still learning that the clubs were again drawing crowds.
“For us, it’s really just finding out things are opening up,” he said. “We want to have to have a presence there. It’s a heavy ask for Central Precinct.”
At 7:30 pm, five hours after the press conference, Lovell announced that he was sending officers from the North and East precincts to assist with downtown patrols.
Wheeler walked a careful line in his remarks, calling for more proactive policing while repeatedly emphasizing the need for greater police accountability.
“We have, clearly, a homicide problem in our community,” he concluded. “The community should expect that we have adequate resources.”