Police accountability advocates gathered on the corner of SE Grand and Washington this afternoon to hold a small vigil for the man shot last night by police at the nearby Cityteam homeless shelter. Attendees held signs decrying police violence and talked about the “sloppy” nature of the shooting while men who’d witnessed the shooting watched from outside of the temporarily-closed shelter.
“It was intense,” said Kirk Smith, who’s been living at the short-term shelter for a month. He was inside the shelter last night when the now-deceased man entered, shirtless. Smith said the man was “twitching and freaking out” when he came inside.
“He looked crazed, you could tell he was looking for help,” Smith said. A shelter volunteer gave the man a jacket, Smith added.
Then, as the room full of men watched, the man began cutting his own neck with a knife, Smith said. “There was blood running down all over him,” Smith said. Smith was the one that ran outside to alert the police, who were already on the search for a carjacking suspect in the area.
According to Smith, around eight police officers entered the shelter with semi-automatic rifles pointed at the man (who they suspected was the carjacker). After the man waved his knife at a police dog who had entered the building, the officers shot him. This piece of the story has yet to be confirmed by police.
Smith, who hasn’t slept since Friday night due to the incident, doesn’t understand the officers' logic.
“The guy was begging for help, he was suicidal,” he said. “They could have Tased him, taken to get some help. They didn’t need to shoot him.”
Erik Clemson was also inside the shelter during the shooting, a moment he described as “surreal,” like he was watching it in slow-motion. When cops showed up, Clemson said, “It escalated so quickly—and I think that’s what [the police] wanted to happen." Clemson agreed with Smith that it wasn't the best way to handle what appeared to be a clear mental health crisis.
Portland police plan on releasing the name of the officers involved in the shooting this evening.