Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response from the Multnomah County District Attorney's office.
It's been four months since Kolby Ross was shot in the gut and leg by a security guard in downtown Portland while walking past a club doorway. While his wounds are slowly healing, Ross' pursuit for justice following the shooting—which killed a 19-year-old acquaintance named Lauren Abbott Jr.—is far from over.
"[Abbott] can’t speak for himself, so I want to be there for him," Ross, a 23-year-old father of three, told the Mercury Monday. "The least I can do is use my voice."
On Tuesday, Ross called on the Multnomah County District Attorney's office to consider pressing new charges against Jascha Manny, the security guard who fired at him. Ross is accusing the county prosecutor's office of wrongly pushing a grand jury to drop the initial charges filed against Manny, which Ross contends makes Abbott and himself look like the criminals.
Ross made this call during a morning press conference outside the Multnomah County Courthouse along with his lawyer Emily Templeton and community advocate Teresa Raiford, founder of Don't Shoot Portland.
Ross and his supporters are specifically calling on the district attorney's office to charge Manny with a bias crime, since Manny has been accused of organizing with white nationalists groups in the Pacific Northwest to rally against Black and Jewish Americans. Most recently, Manny was identified by anti-fascist researchers as allegedly coordinating a 2015 pro-police white nationalist event in Olympia, WA. Both Ross and Abbott are Black.
"One of the reasons to get these charges out there was that people assumed Kolby and Lauren were part of a drive-by shooting or something," Raiford explained to the Mercury Monday. "We want to get the facts out there."
Yet the Multnomah County District Attorney's office said that, because a grand jury found Manny may have acted in self-defense, it would make it difficult to file any new criminal charges against him.
Ross says he came to downtown Portland around 7 pm on July 29 to pick up a friend at a tattoo parlor across the street from Mary's Club on NW 5th Ave. Ross was introduced to Abbott at the parlor. Not long after, the three men decided to walk to a gas station on E Burnside St to buy something to drink. That's when Abbott spoke to someone sitting on the sidewalk, which according to Ross, drew the attention of Manny, who was sitting on a stool outside of Mary's Club.
Security camera footage of the incident shows Manny running across street, shining a flashlight at the three men. According to Ross, Manny then shoved Abbott to the ground. That's when Abbott allegedly pulled out a gun, according to witness testimony. Several witnesses told police that Abbott then fired his gun. Manny responded by shooting his gun at both Abbott and Ross, who was unarmed. Ross was shot three times: once in the stomach, another in the liver, and a third in his leg as he ran from the scene. Abbott was killed by Manny's bullets.
Ross first interacted with the district attorney's office from his hospital bed. Two days after the shooting, Ross said, Deputy District Attorney Eric Palmer pressed him to give testimony to be used in grand jury proceedings against Manny. Ross said he was heavily medicated and unable to keep food down at the time, and felt anxious and uncomfortable speaking with Palmer.
Ross recalled Palmer initially expressing to him that he was on Ross' side, and that he "wanted justice" for Ross and Abbott. Yet the questions Palmer asked were framed in a way that made Ross feel like prosecutors saw Manny as the victim in the situation. He felt like he was being used to support a theory that Manny was acting in self-defense against Abbott, which did not reflect Ross' own experience.
Ross said he was also threatened with perjury for not commenting on whether or not a video detectives showed him and Abbott the night of July 29 depicted Abbott carrying a gun in his pants. Days after leaving the hospital, Ross learned that a grand jury had cleared Manny of his charges of assault and murder.
"I was very surprised, [Palmer] had told me he was here for me," said Ross.
Ross, who was not charged with any crime in the case, felt like his critical injuries were ignored in an attempt to let a suspected white nationalist walk free.
"Eric Palmer was negligent in the way he handled this case, by treating as a hostile witness from the jump," said Ross. "He didn’t do his job.”
Ross' attorney Templeton believes he is a victim of racist prosecuting. According to Templeton, a representative from the district attorney's office told Ross and his legal team over a Zoom call that District Attorney Mike Schmidt was aware of Manny's alleged white supremacist connection prior to the grand jury's conclusion, yet did not seek to file bias crime charges.
"As Kolby’s lawyer, I can't ignore the lack of prosecutorial accountability here and the DA's refusal to penalize white supremacy," Templeton told the Mercury. "In the news, we hear about racial bias by police, but it’s the prosecutor who chooses if someone should be charged with a crime and what that crime should be. The charging power of the prosecutor can’t be overstated."
Templeton's concerns were echoed by Raiford of Don't Shoot PDX, who questioned whether an investigation should be made into how county prosecutors treat shootings that, in Multnomah County, disproportionately injure or kill Black Portlanders. Raiford also cast doubt on DA Schmidt's prior campaign commitments to racial justice.
“Mike Schmidt was elected through the Black Lives Matter movement," said Raiford. "So for him to not treat this with any real scrutiny, it's disgusting.”
According to the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, grand jurors were presented information about Manny's ties to white nationalist groups during the jury proceedings—including a letter by the Anti-Defamation League analyzing Manny's social media accounts and confirming Manny's participation in Washington state's "racist skinhead movement." Yet grand jurors chose not to seek bias crime charges against Manny.
"After deliberation, the grand jury issued a No True Bill in this matter, indicating it did not believe the evidence established that a provable crime had been committed, and that the state could not disprove a theory of self-defense," wrote Elisabeth Shepard, a spokesperson for the district attorney's office, in an email to the Mercury. "This decision covers all criminal charges related to the incident."
Because prosecutors could not disprove that Manny acted in self-defense, Shepard explained, it would be impossible to introduce new charges against Manny regarding the shooting.
Ross filed a lawsuit against Manny and Mary's Club in early August for assault, battery, and negligence. According to state records, Manny's private security guard certification did not allow him to carry a firearm, despite him carrying and using one while on the clock for Mary's Club.
That case, which suggests a jury award Ross $5 million for is damages, is still winding through court, with depositions set for this month. Ross, meanwhile, has regained his ability to walk since the shooting, but his intestinal wounds have left him struggling to lift items and accomplish certain tasks at his job as a behavioral therapist working with kids with autism.
Ross said he knows the risk that comes with continuing to put himself and his family in the spotlight in this case, but is willing to make the sacrifice for Abbott. While he barely knew the teen killed by his side in July, Ross said Abbott's memory has driven him to fight for justice against Manny.
"I was sitting down with [Abbott] 30 minutes before we were shot, and I was listening to him talk and I saw his potential... where he’s going to go," said Ross. "I saw a lot of myself reflected in him. Him being murdered not even an hour later, it inspired me to take action."