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Speakers call for end to record number of shootings and killings over the past year.

KOIN 6 NEWS - Mayor Ted Wheeler at the Thursday press conference.Portland elected and other leaders spoke out against gun violence on Thursday, May 20.

Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee organized a "Community Call to Action Against Gun Violence" at the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church. Hennessee said the podium where he stood was the only place in Oregon that Martin Luther King Jr. ever spoke in Oregon.

Hennessee urged gun violence to stop. He recently lost his stepson in a shooting.

Mayor Ted Wheeler also delivered remarks, praising Hennessee for his work in the community.

"We know the spike in gun violence is not endemic of Portland. It's happening all across the country … but Portland's crisis is what matters to us and Portland's crisis is our responsibility to solve," Wheeler said.

"I'm deeply impacted by the loss of life and the trauma that's currently plaguing our community. More action is needed and we are working urgently on that action," Wheeler said. Police Chief Chuck Lovell said the work they are doing is in collaboration with the community. A representative for Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said his office has allocated additional resources to prosecute gun crimes.

Acting U.S. Attorney for Oregon Scott Asphaug said gun violence was a top priority for his office.

"Gun violence is a community wide problem," Asphaug said.

The press conference comes ahead of Saturday's planned March Against Murder set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 22 at Peninsula Park.

The sound of gunfire is becoming increasingly familiar across Portland as shootings and homicides reach historic rates, with no sign of slowing down.

Portland police reported a staggering 347 shootings citywide between Jan. 1 and April 30. There were 393 shootings in the entire year of 2019. In 2020, that figure increased to about 900.

With hundreds of shootings already this year in Portland and more than 100 people injured by gunfire by the end of April, the city is also experiencing a huge spike in homicides. Police have logged 56 total homicides.

The dramatic rise in violence comes at a time when the bureau's staffing is at its lowest in decades. While everyone agrees this is a major problem for the Rose City, no one seems to be able to agree on how to solve it.

As of late April, Portland police said they're more than 100 members short of "authorized strength." In exit interviews, members cited burnout, ongoing riots and low morale as reasons for leaving. Some said they didn't feel supported by their City Council.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.


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