Shootings and chaos in Portland (with a possible connection to 'defund the police') (Update)

My intention today was to write about the city of Portland’s decision to start cleaning up homeless camps after a year of doing next to nothing about them during the pandemic. But as I was looking at stories about that issue I kept seeing other stories about things happening recently in the city that were pretty shocking. It’s hard not to read this stuff and get the impression the city is really just dealing with a level of chaos it hasn’t seen in decades.

Let’s start with this. Monday a small group of four to five teenagers apparently woke up and decided to launch a brazen crime spree that spanned several businesses:

Monday afternoon near Southeast 92nd and Division, police say a handful of teens walked into a convenience store, spread out and stole a bunch of things. On their way out, investigators say, the suspects pushed an employee.

After leaving the convenience store, authorities say the group walked into a restaurant a few blocks away, yelled at staff and stole a tip jar.

The Portland Police Bureau reports they were just getting started. About 40 minutes after the initial theft, they entered a hair salon:

and began throwing products from shelves and table tops onto the floor. Individuals from the group moved into marked “employee only” areas and stole property. At least one person attempted to take a purse from a customer before leaving with the rest of the group.

Half an hour later they were stealing from a driver in a parking lot:

the group approached a person parking a car in the 2700 block of 82nd Avenue, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood. They surrounded the car and approached the driver, demanding money. One of the group stole property from inside the car before the group ran off.

Half an hour after that they escalated to carjacking:

the group surrounded a car as it drove through a parking lot in the 5200 block of Southeast 82nd Avenue, in the Foster-Powell neighborhood. The driver of the car stopped and one of the people in the group opened the driver?s door and pulled the driver out of the car. The group got into the car and drove off.

A couple hours later, they tried to use the stolen car to block the road and carjack a second car but the driver managed to get away. As of yesterday afternoon, police still aren’t sure if there are other victims of this crime spree who haven’t been identified yet. Portland police posted two photos (including the one above) showing some of the teens involved.

Meanwhile just a couple hours after this crime spree took place, a large group of people showed up at a McDonalds and began racing their cars in the parking lot and threatening people.

The manager of a McDonald’s on the North Portland industrial waterfront where four people were injured in a gunfight Monday night says he and an employee hid in the kitchen, fearing for their lives, after dozens of young men raced cars in the the parking lot and began threatening restaurant staff.

“I was so scared that I was shaking and on the verge of tears,” Miguel Ángel Mijangos Rodríguez tells WW. “To them, my life did not matter and all I could think about was my children and partner.”…

Cars and people were everywhere, he says. Someone at the drive-thru came up and ordered a Diet Coke and as soon as Miguel handed it to him, the guy threw it right back at him.

“If it wasn’t for the drive through window [glass] it would’ve hit me straight in the face,” he says.

At some point, someone started firing shots at the crowd, possibly at rival gang members. The people who were fired upon pulled out their guns and fired back. Police eventually collected 55 shell casing from the parking lot. The manager said he never heard the shots because by that time he and his staff were already cowering in the kitchen.

Incredibly, no one was killed in the shootout but sometime after 10 pm two groups of angry people showed up at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center emergency room. Four people had gunshot wounds and an argument broke out and came dangerously close to starting another shootout in the hospital.

Once the victims started showing up at the hospital, others followed. Fights broke out. Some people pushed their way into the emergency department, Duilio said.

“One guy was seen with a gun inside the hospital. It got pretty chaotic,” he said…

“The large crowd and emotional response to the shooting interfered with the orderly operation of the emergency department and ambulance bay and created a need for an increased response to restore peace at the hospital,” police spokesman Lt. Greg Pashley said in a statement.

“Individuals were combative with staff and created a disruptive and potentially dangerous scene,” Pashley said. “Several members of this crowd were reported to be armed.”

The Oregonian story on the fight in the ER notes Portland is currently on course to beat the record for the most shooting deaths the city has seen since 1987. At this point, the gangs involved are just shooting each other at every opportunity. And later in the story we get this paragraph:

Some vocal church and community leaders and police continue to bemoan last June’s budget cuts to the Police Bureau and the dismantling of the Gun Violence Reduction Team. The officers on the team worked to build relationships on the street and get to know people involved in the shootings.

The City Council eliminated the team, citing concerns about its disproportionate arrests of people of color.

This isn’t the first time the spike in crime has been connected to the decision to get rid of the GVRT. Apparently the mayor agreed because in March he proposed a plan to bring the GVRT back, albeit under a different name. But so far, that revised team hasn’t materialized.

According to a BLM activist quoted in the story, the decision not to give money to the police was a good one. “Gun violence of this proportion isn’t solved by raising billboards or passing the buck,” he said. He added, “It is solved by providing those directly involved in these shootings with the immediate counseling, support and resources necessary to help them grieve, communicate and end the cycles of violence.” But if that’s true, why is the violence getting worse and not better?

Again, that’s a lot a chaos for one day and I haven’t even mentioned the large homeless camps and the related stories of women being chased into their offices or, worse yet, young children in their own front yards being screamed at by mentally ill homeless people (“I’m going to kill you!”). Every big city has problems but the problems in Portland seem to be spiraling out of control at the moment.

Update: This is how bad things are in Portland. The more conservative parts of Oregon want to join another state.