On a Friday at the end of the shift, Jacob Eli Knight Vasquez walked across the street from the pub where he worked in northwest Portland to have a drink — a neighborhood known for its laid-back diners, foreign cuisines, and quiet cafés.
The 34-year-old had only been in the pizza joint for a few minutes when bullets were fired. Vasquez was killed instantly after being hit by a stray gunshot.
His death in late September was one of 67 killings in Portland this year, which is on pace to break the previous high of 66 slayings set in 1987.
Fear and frustration over gang violence has descended upon the metropolis, as incidents like Vasquez’s have made some people afraid of going out late at night. Bystanders are being caught in the crossfire in greater numbers this year than in past years, from those mourning at vigils and waiting in automobiles to children playing in a park.
“People should be cautious because this is a dangerous period,” said Lionel Irving Jr., a gang outreach worker who has lived in Portland his whole life.
Due to a severe personnel shortfall and budget constraints, Portland’s police force is fighting to keep up. Now, the state’s largest city is putting in place new safety measures, such as installing traffic barrels to deter drive-by shootings and halting routine traffic stops so cops can focus on imminent dangers.
However, opponents claim that the liberal Pacific Northwest metropolis, which has a population of over 650,000 people, is in trouble.
Don Osborn, Vasquez’s brother-in-law, stated outside the store where Vasquez was killed, “Let’s please untie the hands of our law enforcement officers.” “I think that if our law enforcement personnel had the necessary tools, this would not have happened.”
So far this year, there have been almost 1,000 shootings in Portland, with 314 people injured by bullets, and weapons accounting for three-quarters of all killings. The majority of the shooting is attributed to gangs, conflicts, and retaliatory killings, but it is also impacting bystanders, according to police.
Hadar Kedem, nine years old, recently told city authorities about a perilously close encounter she had earlier this year when she was caught in gunfire.
Hadar was playing in a northeast Portland park with her father, brother, and dog when a gang of people wearing ski masks began shooting. Hadar and her family ducked behind a metal equipment container for safety. One bullet missed the fourth-grader by a few feet.
During a City Council meeting last month, Hadar remarked, “I know that not only do I want change, but everyone wants change.” “I’d like to feel secure.”
According to FBI data, murders climbed by approximately 30% in the United States from 2019 to 2020. However, lethal violence in Portland is growing at a higher pace than in virtually every other large city, with an 83 percent rise in homicides expected by 2020.
In 2021, Portland had more killings than other larger cities, such as San Francisco, and more than twice as many as its larger neighbor, Seattle. The Albuquerque, New Mexico, metro region, which has roughly 679,000 inhabitants and has seen a record 97 killings this year, is another hard-hit Western city.