A Week After Mass Shooting, Downtown Portland Sees More Police Amid the Drunken Revelry

“Back the blue!” a man yelled, stumbling past and walking in the road. “We need more of you!” Then, as he receded, he added: “Portland is a shithole! Portland looks like shit!”

One week after Portland officials were at a loss to explain the lack of police presence in the city’s nightlife district on the night a mass shooting killed 18-year-old Makayla Maree Harris, the Portland Police Bureau visibly increased its patrols near downtown bars.

The Police Bureau and Mayor Ted Wheeler received criticism last week for deploying few officers to the city’s “entertainment district,” despite a citywide increase in young men shooting each other. In response, Portland police pledged to pair their uniformed officers with FBI agents on Friday night. The police reinforcements were highly visible. The feds weren’t.

At least two incidents of serious violence occurred early Saturday morning. Police taped off a block of Southwest Washington Street in front of Kelly’s Olympian, saying a shooting had occurred. The bureau later confirmed the victim’s injuries were not life threatening. And police said a man died shortly after an ambulance driver found him bleeding from stab wounds at the intersection of Southwest Pine Street and 3rd Avenue at about 12:47 am.

The streets outside Old Town nightclubs saw far more officers last night than on the weekend prior.

Around 11 pm, five Portland Police officers stood in a circle at the corner of Northwest 3rd Avenue and Couch Street. Their demeanor was more formal and wary than the congenial parade-police approach PPB used to reflect on weekend club shifts.

Asked if they have seen FBI officers that evening, one replied, “We read that too.” They hadn’t seen or heard of the promised assistance.

Daniel, an armed Clean and Safe security officer on a bike, hadn’t heard there would be FBI officers in Old Town to help with the shootings, but he welcomed it. “This was once a beautiful place and it can be again,” he said.

Asked what the difference is between a police officer and a Clean and Safe security officer, Daniel said that, rudimentarily speaking, police “have the authority to intervene. We can just be a good witness. As I am an armed officer, I can also intervene if I see people are in danger.”

The recent violence did not appear to depress attendance in the entertainment district. The line outside Dixie Tavern stretched nearly a block. You couldn’t walk that distance without encountering someone who had drunk too much.

Beneath the historic Hung Far Low sign, a woman braced herself and leaned over. A friend rubbed her back.

“The Uber is coming,” her friend said. “If you’re gonna throw up, throw up. Tina, throw up.” She didn’t. So her friend pulled Tina’s arm over her shoulder and they hobbled toward their car.

Outside Kelly’s Olympian, police strung caution tape and blocked the street at each end with a total of seven squad cars. But the officers moved one of their squad cars to let a couple who parked on the street back out.

“Back the blue!” a man yelled, stumbling past and walking in the road. “We need more of you!” Then, as he receded, he added: “Portland is a shithole! Portland looks like shit!”

An officer at the scene said there was a shooting at the bar, but he couldn’t give out more details. On Saturday, a police spokesman confirmed that a shooting occurred, sparked by a “verbal altercation” on the corner of Southwest 5th Avenue and Washington Street.

“The suspect produced a gun and shot the victim in the lower torso,” Sgt. Kevin Allen told WW. “He then produced a knife and sliced the victim on the shoulder. The victim was seriously wounded and transported to the hospital by ambulance. Doctors have stabilized him and his injuries are not believed to be life threatening. The suspect ran off before police were called.”

Onlookers gathered to rubberneck outside Kelly’s Olympian.

“Hey!” A noticeably drunk woman said, approaching an officer at the scene. “My cousin is a cop. Do you know him?” She said her cousin’s name.

“Oh, yeah,” the police officer replied, thoughtfully. “I remember him. He’s still in training so he’s not out on patrol yet. He’s a good guy.”

That was all she wanted.

WW news editor Aaron Mesh contributed reporting to this story. The report has been updated with confirmation by police of a shooting outside Kelly’s Olympian.

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