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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