Fatal shooting exposes murky role of Portland's hired guards
On the evening of May 29, gunfire echoed across a North Portland shopping plaza.
Around 6:30 p.m, an armed security guard on patrol at Delta Park Center fatally shot Freddy Nelson Jr., 49, four times through the windshield of Nelson's Nissan Frontier as he sat in the plaza's parking lot, according to interviews with eyewitnesses and family members.
Records show the shooter, identified by Oregon Public Broadcasting as 28-year-old Logan Gimbel, was one of at least three guards working for Cornerstone Security Group, a company that states it only provides armed security, who did not have a license to carry a gun while on the job.
The bullets pierced Nelson's head, heart and both of his lungs, according to his father, who has spoken with detectives and a victim advocate from the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office. Witnesses said Nelson's wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, jumped out of the vehicle at the last shot with her shirt drenched in blood and pepper spray, screaming at the guard, "You killed my husband."
In a city plagued with a skyrocketing number of shootings, Nelson's death — the 37th homicide this year and the second that day — faded almost immediately from public attention. Unlike the two fatal shootings by Portland police officers this year, Nelson's death has received no media scrutiny and triggered little public outrage.
Yet, his death serves as a case study for another notable law enforcement problem the city is grappling with: powerful business interests turning to private security to do the work of police officers, enabling them to wield force against vulnerable Portlanders with a fraction of the oversight.
TMT Development, one of the city's biggest real estate companies, had contracted with Cornerstone Security Group to patrol the Delta Park Center for more than a year. In spring 2020, Vanessa Sturgeon, CEO of the company and a board member of the influential Portland Business Alliance, asked the guards to police the crowds converging on the plaza's BottleDrop, one of the few locations open at the time where people could recycle empty bottles and cans for cash.
The company said the security was necessary, in part, because the long, sometimes unruly lines weaving across the shopping center posed a public health threat in the middle of the pandemic.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Click here to read the full story by OPB.
Kotek reacts to bombshell report:
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat whose district includes the Delta Park area, noted that state lawmakers passed new regulations for private security companies during the 2021 session.
House Bill 2527 — which was sponsored by Portland state Rep Tawna D. Sanchez, D-Cully — requires the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to establish penalties for unlicensed security services and requires that guards follow policies around use of force and citizen arrest, among other things.
The bill needs only Gov. Kate Brown's signature to become law — but the governor has not done so yet; under Oregon law, the bill will expire if not signed within the next few days.
"Senseless death. Sounds like murder," Kotek said. "Private security needs oversight."
— Zane Sparling
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