• Sun. Apr 11th, 2021

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Oregon governor announces additional police resources one day after fatal shooting

The day after a person was shot and killed in Portland, Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown announced a list of action items amounting to “a unified law enforcement plan to protect free speech and bring violence and arson to an end” in the state.

In a statement Sunday, Brown said everyone — from the local to the state level — needed to come together to end the violence in Portland.

“Real change will come from the hard work to achieve racial justice. And it starts with all of us listening to each other and working together,” she said.

The action plan revolves around giving the police department additional support. It includes prosecuting and detaining perpetrators of violent acts, asking nearby counties and cities “to support the Portland Police Bureau with personnel and resources to keep the peace and protect free speech,” reimbursing the additional forces for their help and using the U.S. attorney and the FBI to investigate criminal activity.

The shooting, which took place Saturday, happened during a clash between Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters of President Donald Trump. Sunday, the president praised the pro-Trump caravan that had entered the city, and he criticized Mayor Ted Wheeler.

The pro-Trump demonstrators and the counterprotesters scuffled throughout the day, but most of the president’s supporters had cleared out by the time the shooting occurred, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

Justin Dunlap, 44, a witness, said he saw the victim facing two people and heard a gunshot. The victim took a few steps before collapsing, he said. Videos on social media show first responders attending to the victim.

Getty Images published a photo that showed what appears to be the man wearing a hat with the logo of Patriot Prayer, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a far-right organization.

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In a statement emailed to NBC News, a spokesperson said Portland police had no additional information about the city’s response that they were authorized to release. The spokesperson said no curfew was in effect.

At a news conference Sunday, Wheeler asked that those from other states stay away.

“For those of you saying on Twitter this morning that you plan to come to Portland to seek retribution, I’m calling on you to stay away. You, of course, have a constitutional right to be here, but we’re asking you to stay away and work with us to help us de-escalate this situation,” Wheeler said.

It was not clear whether Wheeler was referring to arrests of people who live outside the city or was referring solely to social media chatter from people talking about possibly heading to Portland. A list of arrests Sunday included several residents of Oregon who are not residents of Portland. At least two people are listed as living out of state. Addresses were not listed for several.

Wheeler vowed to continue working with the community “as we reimagine what public safety and racial justice can look like in our community and can continue to do that work in the weeks and the months ahead.”

During the news conference, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said about 30 police officers were on duty the previous Saturday and mentioned that resources were strained.

“It’s just not always operationally feasible to insert that small number of officers in between two crowds who are hostile towards one another and engage,” Lovell said. “It’s just not necessarily operationally safe all the time to get in the middle of that.”

However, it was unclear Monday whether or how the shooting was connected to the protests.

The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement that it was investigating the shooting.

Brown said in a statement Sunday: “Tragically, yesterday a life was lost in downtown Portland. We do not yet know the full circumstances of this person’s death. Regardless, a life has been lost, and our hearts go out to this person’s family. We will find those who were responsible, and they will be held accountable.”

It was unclear whether Brown’s plan was a response to the shooting or whether it had been in the works beforehand. She said she and Wheeler would hold a community forum, and she invited Black protest organizers and community leaders to “discuss racial justice and police reform in the City of Portland.”

“Change will not come overnight, and, as we have seen in these last months, it does not come easily either. But we are building a more just future,” Brown said in another statement Sunday.

Brown, Wheeler and members of the Portland City Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what action the city was taking in the wake of the shooting.

Portland has had protests since spring. In July, the Trump administration deployed extra federal agents to the city to protect federal property, but Wheeler said the move only made the situation more hostile.

Although Portland is thought to be a liberal bastion, it is difficult to square its progressive ideologies with a city that is still notably segregated and has a history of clashes between police and its Black and brown residents.

Last month, The Oregonian reported that 80 percent of the Portland Police Bureau is white. Only 6 percent of Portland’s residents are Black, according to census data, making it one of the whitest big cities in the U.S., and that population has historically been redlined into a single neighborhood in the downtown area.

And fatal police shootings have disproportionately involved Black residents. The Oregonian reported this month that since 2003, 11 Black people have died in the 40 shootings it reviewed, or 28 percent.

In 2012, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sent Sam Adams, then the mayor of Portland, a letter about an investigation into the police bureau’s use of force in encounters with people who were perceived to have mental illness, especially those who are Black. It said that while most uses of force were constitutional, “we find reasonable cause to believe that PPB engages in a pattern or practice of unnecessary or unreasonable force” during encounters with those who may have mental illness.

In July, as protests continued, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty tweeted an open letter telling the mayor to either control the police or hand oversight over to her.

“We need you to stop denying the violence being perpetrated by our own police force, and make it clear and unambiguous: Portland police are directed from the top to never collaborate with 45’s goon squad, to take off their riot gear, and to stop contributing to the violence that was occurring before the feds arrived and still continues night after night,” Hardesty wrote.

In response, Lovell, the police chief, addressed Hardesty’s concerns, saying the police bureau is “a progressive agency with a culture of change.”

“We do not shy away from community input or new ways to try police work. We strive for excellence and will continue to do so. We have work to do and we are ready to listen and collaborate with our community to gain trust and build meaningful solutions,” Lovell wrote.

Hardesty wrote July 16 that more community events would be held to discuss how to achieve community safety in Portland ahead of the fall budget adjustment.