PORTLAND, Ore. — A fight at a north Portland homeless camp led to a shooting late Tuesday morning. A KGW team was at the camp for a separate story and witnessed what happened.
KGW reporter Blair Best and Photojournalist Ken McCormick saw a fight breakout between two men. One was hitting the other with what appeared to be a large, ax-like weapon when a gunshot was fired. One of the men fell to the ground and then hobbled off into the woods.
The KGW crew tried calling 911, but no one picked up right away. Another neighbor got through to dispatch and police arrived about 10 minutes later. None of the people living in the camp would speak with police about what they saw and the victim and suspect ran off before police arrived.
Police said they heard one person was shot in a leg, but weren't able to find a victim or a suspect by the time they arrived.
The homeless camp is located in the St. John’s neighborhood off the Peninsula Crossing Trail. It has slowly grown into what Portland Police called a “hot spot” they patrol daily. The city posted a notice last week that stated it would clear the camp.
Even before the shooting on Tuesday, the camp has been on the city’s radar. They plan to build a Safe Rest Villages for those who are homeless at the very location.
That plan is a sore spot for the people currently living there and now being told to move. KGW spoke with some of the homeless people about that before the shooting.
“They don't help out the people here,” said one homeless woman.
KGW reporter Blair Best asked her if the city has offered any of them a spot in the new Safe Rest Village.
“No, they don't do anything, They don't do that, and I’ve lived here for six years,” she said. She added that she would take a spot in the village, if offered.
“I would and I think everyone would here,” she said.
Belmont Goats let loose in protest of camp being cleared
Right next to the camp is another fixture in the community, the Belmont Goats. In protest of the camp being removed, someone cut a hole in the goats' fence Monday night, letting them out. The KGW team who witnessed the shooting was there to cover this.
“I got a call from one of the people who lives in the encampment at about 3 in the morning,” said Robin Casey, who works with the Belmont Goats. Casey said it's not clear who cut their fence this week.
“We kind of just were trying to wrap our heads around why somebody would do that,” she said.
Casey added someone from the homeless camp helped find and return the goats.
“I was like oh no, they're going to think one of us homeless people did that,” said one homeless woman.
The goats became famous in Portland about a decade ago, when a landscape architect used herds of goats to clear fields for development along Southeast Belmont Street. The goats have been relocated several times and now live in North Portland's University Park neighborhood off Syracuse Street.
Whoever cut the fence left a printed note saying in part: “People don't know where to go. People are desperate. Sweeps are cruel and inhumane.” The note was signed “You Sweep, we strike! – Some anarchists”
KGW reached out to the city to get a response. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Dan Ryan released this statement on behalf of the mayor's office on Tuesday:
"The Street Services Coordination Center has worked over the past 6 months to perform extensive outreach to those residing along the Peninsula Crossing trail in self-sited campsites. Those who the SSCC made contact with were offered an immediately-available shelter bed, a personal ride to that shelter with their immediate belongings, complimentary storage for additional belongings and other services. This long-term cleanup effort is to allow for the development of a new Safe Rest Village site location, led by Commissioner Ryan.
"The senseless incident that occurred last night caused damage to private property and posed an immediate threat to the goats who were released. City staff has been in contact with Belmont Goats since early this morning to help the staff bring the goats back to safety.
"While we wait to learn additional details of the shooting event, this underscores the need for temporary alternative shelter sites and Safe Rest Villages that provide a safe, professionally managed environment for homeless Portlanders to stay where they have better access to services.
"The City of Portland does not condone these acts of violence. Those who are engaged in criminal activity or acts of violence must be held accountable for their actions."