Portland police and Mayor Sam Adams called a press conference this afternoon in North Portland to release more information about a tragic shooting that occurred last night and ask the public's help in preventing retaliatory violence.
A group of teenagers were hanging out on the front porch and yard of an abandoned house near the corner of North Albina and Jessup at 11:20 last night after attending a Jefferson High School football game. Suddenly, someone walking by opened fire on the group, shooting six of the teens ages 13 to 16, and running off. As of this afternoon, luckily, none of the victims are in life threatening condition.
Police described the incident as a "gang style" shooting and Assistant Police Chief Eric Hendricks says this is one of the worst incidents of gang violence this year in Portland. The shooting is not related to the football game or Jefferson High School, says Hendricks, except that some of the victims are students there.
Mayor Adams, dressed in shorts and loafers appropriate for Labor Day weekend (and his birthday, which is today), said the most important thing now is preventing future violence.
"The best way to stop inevitable tit-for-tat retaliation is to solve this crime," said Adams, noting that his recent changes to the city's gun laws were an effort to prevent shootings like this. The new rules set a 7 PM curfew for youths convicted of gun crimes.
The city has 10 paid outreach workers who do foot patrols of gang violence hot spots in Portland, including the area around Penninsula Park where the shooting occurred. The workers will be walking around the North Portland neighborhood this weekend, talking with neighbors and keeping their eyes out for potential violence. A volunteer group also regularly meets at Holladay Park on Friday and Saturday nights at 4:30 and 8:30 for a similar foot patrol.
"If there's any one thing that's going to slow down gang violence, it's working with the community," says Hendricks. "We'll be in contact with folks from the community, there's been a lot of folks from Northeast Portland walking the parks and streets."
So far in 2011, the city has seen 65 serious gang-related assaults, about on pace with the 94 incidents the city experienced last year. While that's a steep decline from the worst years of gang violence in Portland in the 1990s, gang issues persist in the city. The Portland police's official record of gang members is over 800 names long.
Police and the mayor are urging anyone who knows anything about this terrible shooting to talk with the detectives on the case. You can call 503-823-HELP or the detectives' cell phones at 503-793-2790.