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The Hour Glass Pub & Eatery on Glisan Street, the site of a double murder last Friday.

City Limits

‘He Had to Sit There and Hold his Brother’s Head, and Watch the Life Ooze Out’

Accounts from the front lines of urban gun violence. This week: Portland, Oregon, where a homicide rocked a peaceful neighborhood the night after the Roseburg college shooting.

The Hour Glass Pub & Eatery is a beloved hole-in-the-wall bar on Northeast Glisan Street in Portland’s quiet Montavilla neighborhood. The peace broke last Friday night, when words between strangers morphed into gunfire in the pub’s parking lot, leaving two men dead and a third injured. Three other shootings took place that same weekend — another in northeast, one in southeast, and a third at the city’s far north edge. Violence has for decades centered in Portland’s northeast quarter, but as the weekend’s incidents showed, it’s now casting a wider net.

Portland experienced a “homicide drought” in 2013, as 16 murders marked the lowest levels in four decades, according to the Portland Police Bureau’s annual report for that year. Homicides jumped to 26 the following year, and already in 2015, the city’s seen 25 homicides (18 of which were shootings). Gang-related violent crime is also up this year, most of which is gun violence, police tell The Trace.

But officers haven’t been able to pinpoint what’s causing the spike in homicides. “The theme is gun violence,” one official recently told The Oregonian. “What’s causing it is a number of different things.” In response to an overwhelming number of shooting incidents this past summer, Portland police added six officers and a sergeant to its Gang Enforcement Team.

As part of a weekly series, The Trace shares the stories of three Portlanders whose lives have been shaped by gun violence.

The reformed ex-con who still hasn’t seen his son’s body

Felton Howard Jr., 63, lost his youngest son, Anthony Howard, when he was killed in last Friday’s Hour Glass Pub shooting. Howard works as a site manager and reentry navigator at Mercy Corps NW.

“My son was 42. Anthony was just a big lovable man. He was what we call the Family Protector. When he was young, maybe 19, he did a couple years in boot camp. When he got out, he just changed. He had turned his life around, been crime free and clean for the last 20-something years. I just miss his big old smile, and loud voice, and the way he would get all upset about the Dallas Cowboys.

From what I understand, my son and his brother and two of their friends were at a neighborhood bar. They were there to celebrate my stepson’s birthday. I guess that this individual showed up at the bar, and I guess that he got to drinking. The guy got pretty inebriated or he was acting kinda strange, and he was bothering the other patrons, and he was asked to leave by the bartender. And I think that my son and his friend had walked outside. They were having a cigarette. And they were just coming back in the door when he was coming out. I think some words were exchanged to the effect of, ‘Hey why don’t you chill out?’ The man started swinging at my son’s friend. And I think my son was trying to break the fight up. The officer said my son gave him just enough room to reach into his pocket and pull out his pistol and he started shooting. He shot my son five times. He shot the other young man in the head. He shot another friend of theirs in the leg. And then he took off running.

I was falling asleep when my phone rang. My ex-wife called me, and she told me that he was on his way to Emanuel Hospital — and generally when somebody’s going to Emanuel Hospital it’s not good. It’s got the trauma unit there. I live 20 minutes away. He died before I got to the hospital. They wouldn’t let us see him. His body was a crime scene. I haven’t seen his body yet.

The big traumatic piece of all this is that his brother Jestin was there for his birthday party, and he had to sit there and hold his brother’s head, and watch the life ooze out of his brother. We’re kind of rallying around him right now. He’s having a tough time right now.”

The neighbor troubled by the shooting down the block

Mary Porter, 32, works and lives a few blocks from the Hour Glass Pub. She is a store manager at Spencer’s Appliances on Glisan Street in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood, where she’s lived for the last 12 years.

I was at home in bed. I knew a lot of the people that were up there that night. My son’s father was there and he called me. He was there as part of the group that was there for the birthday party, and knew both victims, and was helping one of them as they passed.

A lot of neighborhoods in Southeast and North Portland have changed quite a bit over the years and are much trendier. But this neighborhood has still got its old Montavilla feel to it. I grew up just a couple miles north of here. On the street that we’re on, it’s mainly businesses and a few houses, and then of course residential right off Glisan Street. Across the street from the Hour Glass, where the shooting was, there’s another local restaurant and bar. There’s a couple of churches right there. Our business has been here for over 30 years, it’s enclosed by a tool place to our left and an auto body shop to our right. I live right on Glisan, so it’s a little noisy, and there’s a lot of foot traffic, your neighborhood bums, but it’s certainly not the worst neighborhood. It’s just a very average-looking neighborhood — nice houses, nice people, nice neighbors.

This shooting at the Hour Glass was definitely not gang related at all. This person who killed ‘em that night was a stranger, and seemed to be out to start something that night, and they were resistant. He shouldn’t have even been on the street, for one. He was to be sentenced on Tuesday for unrelated crimes. Instead he was arraigned on Monday for aggravated murder, attempted murder, and unlawful possession of a weapon. So I think that’s probably the worst part of this situation, that he fell through the cracks of our justice system. It just seems like something that was preventable. This was a family event for them, and they were just celebrating. It was an extremely senseless, unfortunate thing.”

The police captain who can’t predict where lightning will strike next

Captain Mathew Wagenknecht, 47, heads the Portland Police Bureau’s Tactical Operations Division, which includes the Gang Enforcement Team. He has worked for the PPB for 23 years.

“Back in the late 80s, it was apparent that Portland was experiencing the same type of gang issues that were historically experienced in larger cities, like Los Angeles for example. So the gang unit was formed kind of based on what the Los Angeles Police Department had. It was to have officers that would be able to focus specifically on gang culture, gang lifestyles, what is it that the gang members mean to each other — not only to focus on the criminal parts of it, but also the social aspects of it, and to be be able to predict, and not only reactively but proactively police the areas that were being affected by gangs.

When I got hired in 1992, the gang violence was primarily focused in Northeast Portland area, around Martin Luther King Boulevard area. That has totally changed now. Now there’s really no area in the city that’s totally immune. We’ve had bad years and good years, relatively speaking. This year in particular has been relatively high. The gang violence really started to escalate probably last December, with a pretty serious shooting we had over on Albina and Killingsworth.

It’s interesting — I was just talking to my lieutenant about this today. We’re trying to figure out what it is we need to do. Do we need more cops? Do we need more district attorneys? What is it we need? It’s kind of like trying to chase a lightning bolt. I mean, the lightning bolt will strike, and then we’ll all go there and put the fire out, as it were, investigate the crime. But we’re having a hard time predicting, where is it going to strike next? It’s really difficult to really say where it’s going to happen, because the entire city is really suffering from it.

I don’t know exactly what the cause is. We’re seeing some young kids out here, 12, 13, 14 years old, with guns, out after curfew, walking around or driving around, shooting up buildings or at people.

We had an incident of a shooting — it was probably in early summer. Our suspect turned out to be 13 years old, and he had a friend who was 14 years old. One of our detectives found them. They were walking down the street, in the middle of the street, like, ‘I’m not moving for traffic, I can do whatever I want.’ They had a bag on them. They had a Beretta 9mm, they had a Glock 9mm, and they had a 30-round magazine for the Glock. Just an incredible, incredible arsenal. These are junior high school kids, and they’re running all hours of the night, and they’re armed just as good, if not better than, the police. I don’t know how to describe that. That’s a breakdown somewhere in society, where that’s not only allowed but it’s happening.”

[Photo: Google maps]