PORTLAND, Ore. — Multiple people were shot near illegal street-racing "takeovers" as street racers blocked streets and intersections across the city Sunday night.
It all happened on a weekend when Portland police were so busy responding to homicides and shootings, they were unable to do anything to crack down on the street-racing events. The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) said some of the events impeded officers' ability to reach areas of the city where people had been shot.
KGW obtained videos of large-scale illegal street racings events Sunday night across the city: at Northeast 72nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, on Marine Drive near I-5 and at the Lloyd Center. According to police, three people were shot in the area of the Marine Drive street-racing event Sunday night.
The street racing angered Portland residents, with numerous people reaching out to KGW Sunday night to share details of what they were seeing and hearing, and ask why police weren't getting involved.
Much of the outcry was focused on a large event in Northeast Portland that took over multiple streets, blocking the six-way intersection of Northeast 72nd Avenue, Sandy Boulevard and Fremont Street in the Roseway neighborhood of Northeast Portland.
According to witness reports, there were hundreds of people at the event and cars were lined up five to six cars deep at each part of the intersection to make sure nobody could get through. There were reports of "drifting" cars, fireworks, large amounts of smoke and people sitting and standing on the roofs of nearby businesses, including a nearby donut shop.
People who contacted KGW said they called 911 multiple times but police didn't respond. One person said they were told by dispatch there was nothing police could do about it.
When KGW reached out to police Sunday night about the event, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Lieutenant Nathan Sheppard said officers were not responding to street racing Sunday night because they were responding to shootings, including one in Southeast Portland that left a man dead, and other "life/safety calls."
On Monday, Portland police explained further just how busy they were. Officers responded to three homicides and seven other shootings over the weekend. Police also said some of the street racing events across the city impeded officers from reaching areas where people had been shot.
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Sheppard said street-racing events require many officers to respond because of the large number of people in attendance. On Sunday night, there weren't enough available officers to safely respond to street-racing calls, he said.
"Although it is the goal of the Portland Police Bureau to answer calls for service as soon as possible after they are dispatched, street racing incidents are typically large crowd control events requiring a large number of officers," Sheppard said late Sunday night. "Officers are currently working through several life/safety calls and there are not enough available to safely address the calls regarding street racing. Officers will respond as they become available and it is safer for them to do so."
In April, PPB said it was going to crack down on illegal street racing after numerous street "takeovers" in recent years. Portland police released a statement saying they were "planning and gathering resources to conduct regular enforcement missions."
In August 2021, the Portland City Council voted to create a new ordinance that would ban street racing in the city. Under the terms of the ordinance, illegal street racers could face prison time, get their cars towed and receive fines of up to $500.