Portland police, FBI working to stop 'imminent' weekend gun violence
The Portland City Council is warning that law enforcement agencies are working to head off an "imminent" wave of gun violence in coming days.
An unusual joint statement released Friday evening, May 14, by the council said the FBI and Portland Police Bureau have learned that out-of-state individuals and groups have potentially targeted upcoming vigils and funerals for violence.
"In Gresham last month, seven people were shot at a vigil for a gun violence victim. There are several vigils and funerals planned in Portland in the coming days and these vigils are credible targets for further violence. Our goal is to deescalate and lower the tensions in the community that are fueling this crisis," the statement reads.
According to the statement, the city also has learned that groups involved in the violence have issued an order to shoot someone in the next 30 days or be shot for not showing loyalty.
Investigators with the Portland Police Bureau's Enhanced Community Safety Team are on duty and in uniform this weekend, and are working with the FBI. Their high visibility presence in the community is intended to deter anyone considering committing criminal acts.
They also will provide a quick response to any shootings that do happen, gather information, witness statements and evidence, and immediately follow-up on leads, Wheeler said. Crime Prevention Outreach workers from the Office of Violence Prevention also will be in the community where needed to provide support and to ease tensions.
Community Safety Director Mike Myers has been authorized to lead the effort with community partners.
"Gun violence in Portland transcends race, socio-economic status and geography, and city leadership is committing to building a community where everyone feels safe," the statement reads.
In a separate statement, the FBI said agents will be on the streets with members of the Metro Safe Streets Task Force responding to shootings.
"It will be a very visible effort with two goals in mind. First, the task force wants to show the community that it is working to bring peace to the streets. Second, the task force wants shooters to know that law enforcement is working assertively to find them and arrest them," said Kieran Ramsey, the special agent in charge of the Portland FBI Field Office.
According to the statement, the FBI knows there are groups retaliating against other groups "for perceived grievances. We also know that the number of bullets being fired — often dozens at any given scene — keep going until they hit something or someone. There are random, innocent victims who did nothing more than be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said, "Our community is experiencing acute trauma, fear and anxiety associated with the unprecedented rise in gun crimes and the threat of continued violence. I share those feelings. There is an urgent need for everyone to recognize and respond to the profound and lasting harms inflicted by gun violence. I join community leaders and law enforcement to say I am worried about retaliatory and targeted shootings that may occur at funerals and vigils after someone is murdered. That is why as prosecutors, we will continue to prioritize and apply all of our legal resources and knowledge to investigating and prosecuting acts of gun violence to hold shooters accountable."
The Portland region has seen a record surge in shootings and killings since the City Council eliminated the Portland Police Bureau's Gang Prevention Team last year after repeated accusations that it disproportionately focused on the Black community. Other American cities also have seen similar increases in gun violence.
So far this year in Portland, there have been 31 homicides, 23 of which involved gunfire. At this point last year, there were four homicides.
The most recent fatality was a 25-year-old women who died in the hospital after being shot on Wednesday, May 12, the same day a man was killed in broad daylight in Northeast Portland.
Preliminary data indicates that there have been 388 shootings — not including suicide attempts — this year, 106 of which involved gunshot injuries. There have been 125 people hurt by gunfire so far in 2021.
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