Monday, January 15, 2007

Ha Ha Crimes

It’s been a bloody New Year so far. On January 1st, just two hours after midnight, Jermaine Davis, 23, became the first murder victim of the year. One week later Davonte Lightfoot, 14, was shot to death at the corner of North Albina Ave and Killingsworth.

Rev. Robert Richardson, of Emmanuel Community Services, who presided at Davis’ funeral, told the Oregonian these are not hate crimes; they are Ha Ha Crimes. “Ha ha, I dare you to do it.”

Richardson is a high profile activist in northeast Portland who works with several programs to reach out to criminals and convicts and help them transform their lives. Both victims had criminal records and their past crimes may or may not have had anything to do with their deaths.

Davis, a father of twins, worked at Portland International Airport and had been arrested in March 2006 for possession and delivery of a controlled substance. His father, David Moaning told the Portland Mercury, “He was just a good kid, and a father of two twins himself. He was the type of person whose heart went out to everyone, he always thought of others before himself.”

Davis had just finished ringing in the New Year and was presumably on his way home when he encountered a 4-door Sedan with several white or Hispanic men and women riding in it. There was some kind of exchange between Davis and the car’s occupants and then shots rang out.

Police are offering a reward of $1,000 for information that leads them to a thin, pale, white man, aged between 20 and 25, with dark brown spiked hair and a moustache, who is a suspect in Davis’ death.

Davonte Lightfoot, 14, was a freshman at Benson High school, who had been flirting with a dangerous life on the street for some time. Arrested earlier in 2006, near the same corner where he was shot, for carrying a .22 pistol, Davonte was on juvenile probation at the time of his death.

Although he had a record, his teachers at Benson told the Oregonian that Davonte was a respectful, humble kid. He wanted to be a rapper, but he did not glorify gang life. Whether he glorified it or not, he felt the draw of gang life. The corner where he was shot is well known for drug dealers, prostitutes and sudden death.

Police are looking for a black male around 20 years old, thin and between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall. They believe he was wearing a three-quarter length grey jacket. The shooting took place at 4:30 in the afternoon and their were several witnesses. Police have not been getting a lot of cooperation from witnesses in the neighborhood. People in that neighborhood have good reasons to be afraid.

Rev. Richardson told the Portland Mercury that he began his organization, Emmanuel Community Services in 1988, “When Los Angeles had moved across the street. Shootings were at an all-time high. One hundred and seven shots were fired within a week," he recalls. "Our pastor decided we'd rather do more than funerals."

Almost twenty years later Richardson is doing more than just funerals, but he’s still doing the funerals too.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Portland Murder: Year End Wrap Up

The statistics are in for 2006 and the number of murders in Portland held steady, with violent crime in general down by 15%. This bucks a national trend with violent crime in most major cities rising this year. Portland had 27 murders in 2006 compared to 26 in 2005 and 28 in 2004. This is less than half of the record year for Portland murders, 1987 when there were 70.

An interesting development this year is that there were no murders in Portland in 2006 that were considered to be gang related, but more than a third were related to domestic violence.

One case of domestic murder illustrates last year’s trend;

On May 3, 2006, Claudia Rhone was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend Gilberto Pedroso, 63. Rhone had taken out a restraining order against Pedroso in 2004, because of physical abuse. By 2006 the restraining order had lapsed, but Pedroso’s probation for harassment charges banned him from contacting Rhone.

On May 3 Pedroso showed up at Rhone’s apartment with a butcher knife and made threatening gestures outside her window. Police arrived quickly, but Pedroso was nowhere to be found. At 7:22pm one of Rhone’s neighbors called police because Pedroso had returned.

Police again arrived quickly, but Pedroso had once again disappeared. At 10:53pm Rhone called 911 and dispatchers could hear her screaming. Then the phone went dead. When police arrived they found Rhone stabbed over a dozen times with the tip of a butcher knife lodged in her skull.

Pedroso was arrested a short time later. According to the Oregonian, he told officers, “I don’t like that she was always calling the police on me.” He also said that he suspected that another man was sleeping in the bed he had bought for her.

This case will be part of a Multnomah County domestic fatality review, under a new state law, with the goal of identifying county policies that might be able to prevent future murders of this kind. Chiquita Rollins, a Multnomah County domestic violence coordinator told the Oregonian, “If there’s [sic] official response changes that can be made, we want to be making them.”

One domestic violence related killing, hardly a murder, stood out in Portland; the self defense killing of Edward Dalton Haffey by Susan Kuhnhausen. What was originally thought to be a burglary turned out to be a bumbling killer hired by Kuhnhausen’s ex-husband. No charges were brought against Susan Kuhnhausen, but her husband, Michael Kuhnhausen Sr. faces charges of attempted murder and conspiracy.

In a development right after Christmas Angela Kuhnhausen paid $100,000 of her father’s million dollar bail and he came within a whisker of release, under electronic monitoring. He had intended to stay with his son while he waited for his trial, until his son’s landlord heard about it. The landlord refused to allow Kuhnhausen to stay with his son. Kuhnhausen’s daughter, Angela, offered to let her dad stay with her, but since she is a prosecution witness the judge said no.

Kuhnhausen is sitting in jail now waiting for his trail to start. The only thing he will say is, ‘I didn’t do it.”

Two killers, Shawn Womack, 21, and Cevelino Capuia, 20, did their best to run up Portland’s murder rate. These two young men killed two men in Portland to steal their cars. Before Womack was arrested he also killed Capuia’s girlfriend Marissa Manwarren.

Sgt. George Burke, who supervises Portland’s homicide detectives, told the Oregonian, “If we hadn’t stopped them, I’d hate to think of the damage that could’ve been done.” Personally I hate to think of the damage that was done.

Portland police solved 92% of the murders here last year. Unsolved killings still linger, including the murder of Douglas Adamson who’s dismembered body parts were found floating in the Columbia River. Police now believe this murder may have occurred in Washington.

Another case that lingers is the killing of Gary George who was found beaten to death in his northeast Portland home. Police have Bobby Barnes in custody for this killing but recent developments leave more questions than answers. The district attorney’s office has clammed up on this one and there is no word of the status in this case, except that Bobby Barnes did it.

2007 has started with a bang. The first murder of the year occurred at 2:10am on January 1st . Jermaine Nyron Davis, 23, was gunned down on SW 4th avenue just as the bars closed. Davis had a record for manufacture and delivery of drugs. His shooting has caused a stir among Portland bloggers, but so far the police have not arrested a suspect.

And so it goes.

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