Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sin of the Father

Asia Bell was 23 when she died in a volley of gunfire that blinded her 26-year old husband, Tyrone James, on the front porch of her house in North Portland. The shooting took place on November 20, 2002 three days after the fatal shooting of Demingo “Bingo” Lee Gonzales in front of an “after-hours” club on NE Lombard and 22nd.

Police have believed since Bell’s shooting that there were witnesses who could come forward and identify the killer. Nearly five years after the shooting, Portland Police Bureau’s Cold Case Unit made four arrests this weekend. The suspects, Alexander Daniel Klein, 28, Deprince Romey Hale, 29, Sonja Hutchins and Rico Gonzales, are considered to be members or associates of the Rolling 60 Crips, just like Demingo Gonzales.

Klein and Rico Gonzales are brothers of Demingo Gonzales. While Rico has not been charged in the killings yet, he is being held on federal drug distribution charges and police believe they will soon have evidence that he was part of a murder conspiracy.

Asia Bell, the mother of four small children, was not affiliated with any gang. She and her husband Tyrone were health care workers trying to build a better life for themselves and get away from the violence that swirled around their family. They had recently bought there first home on North Mississippi Ave. It was the house that brought about Asia’s death.

Police now believe that the shooting that killed Bell was in retaliation for the shooting of Demingo Gonzales. Gonzales’ murder, which seems to still be unsolved, may have been over a dog fight and trouble between the Rolling 60s Crips and an older set known as the Hoover Crips.

Asia Bell’s father, who remains mysteriously unnamed in the Oregonian’s reporting, raised pit bulls in Washington and had a cousin who was a member of the Hoover Crips. Bell’s father supplied dogs for an illegal dogfight organized between the Hoover Crips and the Rolling 60s. A meeting to organize the dog fight took place at the Bell’s house. Asia was most likely not at the meeting and was probably not even aware of it.

The dogfight broke up over allegations of cheating and foul play. This started a feud between the Rolling 60s and the Hoovers. A few days later Demingo Gonzales was shot down in front of the after hours club.

Three nights later as Asia Bell, her husband Tyrone and a guest celebrated Tyrone’s birthday on the front porch of their home. Two men walked by the house and sprayed at least 17 shots at the small gathering. Bell was killed immediately. Tyrone was blinded and their friend was slightly wounded.

Police believe the gunmen, allegedly Alexander Klein and Deprince Hale, targeted the home because the meeting with the Hoover Crips took place there. In the most real sense Asia Bell was an innocent bystander.

Asia Bell’s family has been a focus of violence and drug addiction for at least three generations (see my earlier post It’s a Family Affair). Her mother Perlia Bell, has become an outspoken activist against the violence of North Portland and she is credited by Portland Police for keeping her daughter’s case alive and helping them finally solve it.

Bell and Tyrone James are both active in Families Affected By Violence, a community organizing group. They have been outspoken against the G-code (for Gangsta) that keeps most witnesses of gang murders silent. While they can hardly be celebrating the latest development, they must at least be feeling that there is a chance for justice.

Good job Cold Case Squad! Since being formed nearly three years ago the detectives of the Cold Case Unit have solved several old killings. Investigators said that they had made Asia Bell’s murder a priority since last summer and it took cooperation from more than 50 officers in several police divisions to bring about the arrests this weekend. Keep up the good work there are only about 270 unsolved cold cases to go.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got an advanced copy of "Secrets Can Be Murder" by Jane Velez-Mitchell. It had some family photos of criminals and victims I had never seen before, and the secrets she reveals are bizarre! If you like sensational crime, you have to check this one out!!

2:31 PM  

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