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Suspect 'casually walked away' after fatally shooting woman at Eastbank Esplanade drum circle, court docs say

Police said people were starting to leave the drum circle when Wyatt Belcher, 25, fired a single shot, shooting a woman in the back of the neck.
Credit: KGW

PORTLAND, Ore. — Witnesses described Sunday night's fatal shooting at the Eastbank Esplanade as an unprovoked killing that happened as people were leaving a drum circle event.

Portland police said they arrested Wyatt Storm Belcher, 25, on the Hawthorne Bridge as he was walking away from the crime scene. He's facing charges of second-degree murder and unlawful use of a firearm in the death of 31-year-old Ashley Marie Smith. 

A large number of people had attended the drum circle in the Eastbank Esplanade parking lot, and people started leaving around 11:30 p.m., court documents say. 

Multiple witnesses reported that Belcher was standing a few feet away from Smith when he fired a single shot. A medical examiner found that Smith died from a gunshot wound to the back of the neck, and a single .40 caliber shell was found next to her body, police said.

Credit: Portland Police Bureau
Ash Smith

Court documents did not give any indication that Belcher and Smith knew each other prior to the shooting. 

RELATED: Police arrest suspect in Southeast Portland homicide case

Witnesses described the suspect casually walking away after Smith fell to the ground, then walking back and asking if she was dead yet. One witness said he held his gun as if he was going to shoot her again, but the witness yelled for him to stop, court documents allege. Another witness reported that Belcher threatened to shoot them as well. 

A third witness said they overheard Belcher saying something about "just tidying up" before leaving the scene. 

Within five minutes of the first 911 call, police saw a person who matched the shooter's description, later identified as Belcher, walking across the Hawthorne Bridge and took him into custody. Police said he had a .40 caliber Glock in his waistband. 

Video and photos from the scene helped investigators confirm Belcher was their suspect, in addition to eyewitness accounts, court documents say. 

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After his arrest, Belcher told jail deputies he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental health disorders. He said he was unemployed and had been living alone at an apartment in Southeast Portland. 

Smith's death marks the Portland's 37th homicide so far this year. At this rate, the city is on track to surpass the record 90 homicides it saw in 2021.

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