A homeless man named Brian Ray Lankford who threatened a woman and her son with a large tree branch in 2017 was given a break this week. Instead of putting Lankford in jail, the prosecutors cut a deal which gave him probation and mandatory drug treatment. That might not seem so bad until you learn how many laps Lankford has already made around this particular block:
Lankford has been arrested more than 220 times in the past decade and — as of Monday — convicted 68 times for crimes including misdemeanor theft, trespassing, harassment, disorderly conduct and interfering with public transportation, according to his court file. He often has been sentenced to fines, short stints in jail or probation in which he was not actively supervised.
On Monday, Lankford pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon and menacing after a woman arrived home in August 2017 to discover Lankford behind her Goose Hollow-area home, just a few blocks from Portland State University. She told him to leave, and he began swinging a 3-foot-long tree branch toward the woman and her son, who had retreated to their locked car and called 911, investigators said.
The boy told police he worried Lankford was going to break their car windows and hurt them.
The boy’s mother, Tiffany Hammer, told the Portland City Council in May that Lankford was a repeat criminal who was among a homeless population that commits a wide array of crimes around their neighborhood. On that particular day, Hammer said, she thinks he was trying to steal from her home.
If the name Tiffany Hammer sounds familiar, that’s because I’ve written about her a couple of times before. Hammer got involved with the issue of homelessness in her neighborhood after the attack by Lankford. He had been living on a strip of public land not far from her house. Hammer organized a cleanup effort in which local residents cleaned up the area and removing all of the garbage and used needles left behind. To prevent homeless campers from returning to the freshly cleaned site, the neighbors planted dozens of rose bushes. Each bush had a small ribbon tied around it.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) took issue with neighbors planting things on their land and claimed the tiny, ground-level ribbons might be a dangerous distraction to drivers. Just to emphasize the point, ODOT hadn’t previously expressed any concern that a tent camp surrounded by garbage and needles was a distraction to drivers, but the tiny ribbons were suddenly a concern.
Then, about a month later after all of this made news, the city decided that it would roll out a new program for the homeless. It parked a “hygiene station,” basically a porta-potty plus lockers on wheels, in the same neighborhood. Tiffany Hammer complained at a City Council meeting that the station was actually making things worse:
“We’ve been attacked and threatened. I won’t mention the loss of possessions not bolted down or the daily car break-ins. We all know ‘em. More concerned about personal safety,” said Hammer to city commissioners…
While Hammer says she and her neighbors have endured fires, stolen possessions, even violence, the new hygiene facility has brought about more campers and threatening behavior.
“A swarm of extra campers have shown up in the last week and we’ve had a lot of personal attacks from that alone,” she said. “We hide our children in our homes to protect them. They are no longer able to walk to school.”
The hygiene station was moved and, after Hammer and a neighbor were attacked while watering the rose bushed they had planted, ODOT came around and replaced the rose bushes with huge boulders. No doubt this was a big win for the neighborhood but it’s disappointing that the attack that prompted all of this is once again being treated as another round in the endless cycle of arrests for Brian Ray Lankford. Of course, the idea is that this time Lankford will get treatment and stay out of trouble. Does anyone really believe that? Hasn’t he used up all of his benefit of the doubt?
I guess in Portland the 68th time is the charm. Here’s Tiffany Hammer describing how all of this began when she was attacked by Lankford: