Update on April 27, 2016
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A Multnomah County grand jury has indicted 45-year-old Muhammad Bilal Rahman in connection with the shooting of a homeless man in March.
Rahman was indicted on charges of first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and felon in possession of a firearm. He has been in the Multnomah County Jail since April 3, according to Portland police.
The victim is still recovering from his injuries.
Original story on March 31, 2016
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A man was shot Thursday morning near Southeast 11th Avenue and Pine Street, suffering life-threatening injuries.
Officers were dispatched about 5:10 a.m. on a report of a shooting, police said.
A man was found with a gunshot wound. The victim lived in a tent on the sidewalk. The suspect was thought to be a fellow camper, police said.
Officers and a K-9 unit searched the area but the suspect was not found.
Because of the gravity of the gunshot wounds, homicide detectives were called to the scene, police said.
Many camping in the area Thursday say in recent years, it’s clear something has shifted.
They say tent camps like the one at Southeast 11th and Pine are more crowded than they’ve ever been.
At the same time, they say, tensions have reached historic highs.
“If you say something that offends somebody because you're listening to their conversation in the next tent, I've seen that turn into a physical altercation,” said Ben Riggs, who has camped in the area on and off for more than three years. “There wasn't nearly this kind of tension and gossip. Now people are crying because they don't know what to think of the situation.”
Police say they’ve noticed an increase in altercations involving homeless people, though a spokesman for the Bureau pointed out what happened Thursday morning stunned officers.
“We don't see this kind of outcome very often with our homeless community. Certainly we see disturbances and arguments and fights and some stabbings, but shootings are really rare,” said Sgt. Pete Simpson.
Directors at Portland’s Union Gospel Mission agree that, though the vast majority of Portland’s homeless are good people, the mood among those they serve has changed.
The repercussions of those changes played out, for instance, played out this month at the Mission’s annual Easter dinner.
“We did have somebody throw a punch," said communications director Stacy Kean. “That was very unusual for us. We've seen the atmosphere changing. We've seen things get a little more tense, angry words and scuffles.”
Kean said it’s hard to pinpoint the reason for the shift, but she says it would make sense that a spike in the number of people living on Portland’s streets is fueling frustrations.
Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to contact the Detective Division at 503-823-0400.
Mayor Charlie Hales issued the following statement:
“Gun violence is absolutely unacceptable, whether committed by someone who is housed or homeless. It puts everyone's safety at risk regardless of their housing status and is of highest enforcement priority for police. Alarmingly, we are on pace to match or even exceed our tragic gun violence statistics from last year—our worst year on record—particularly for those involved in gang-related gun violence. This particular incident highlights that our homeless population are among our most vulnerable to being victimized by criminals, regardless of whether the criminal lives indoors or out. It’s why the City has been aggressively working to find safe places for people to sleep in the short term and to get back to the safety of a permanent home as quickly as possible.”