What is known is that a high school senior – a week away from graduation – was killed by a gunshot in this out-of-the-way outer East Portland park. But who shot her – and why – remains a mystery …
Just to the south of this makeshift memorial at Raymond Park, Borisshell Washington was gunned down.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Most people outside of southern outer East Portland can’t even picture the city park where 18-year-old Borisshell Washington was gunned down, in the evening hours of May 31, while attending a barbecue.
Raymond Park is hidden away, accessible only by streets that either dead-end or turn at right angles around it – bounded by SE Holgate Boulevard and SE Harold Street; about four blocks west of SE 122nd Avenue.
A couple of years ago, Raymond Park was an empty field – until Powellhurst-Gilbert neighbors pressed the Parks Bureau to make improvements, including installing play equipment and a children’s water-feature. Now, this beautifully-landscaped park is the perfect location for a family gathering: It’s off the main roads, and considered a safe place for little kids to run around.
Because of the ongoing investigation, officials aren’t saying who, or why, 18-year-old Borisshell Washington was gunned down. Portland Public Schools photo
Disturbance call – then, a homicide scene
A little after 7:00 p.m. on May 31, police were called to a disturbance on SE 118th Avenue, where it dead-ends into Raymond Park. “At 9:21 p.m., Portland Police officers responded to the area of Southeast 118th Avenue and SE Schiller Street on a call of shots being fired in the area,” reported Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat that evening.
“When officers arrived, they found an adult female deceased at the scene. Homicide detectives were called to the scene, and are investigating this incident as a possible homicide,” Wheat continued late Sunday night.
Sounded like fireworks
An evening after the shooting, we walked through the scene at Raymond Park and met Delores Wood, a park advocate and the event coordinator of last year’s Powellhurst/Gilbert Neighborhood Fair at Raymond Park.
“The shooting surprised everyone around here,” Wood said as we walked. “It sounded like fireworks at first. Then, someone came running saying ‘someone has been shot’.”
Wood noted that her daughter now says she won’t let her kids play in the park. “But I think this is a random thing; it didn’t have anything to do with Raymond Park,” Wood commented.
During the day, Raymond Park appears to be the ideal setting for a family picnic. The shooting took place near the northern entrance to the park, at the end of this winding trail.
Suspect quickly arrested – then charges dismissed
“Portland Police Homicide Detectives have arrested 18-year-old Todd Allen Rutherford in the shooting death of Borisshell Washington,” announced Detective Wheat on June 1. “This investigation is continuing, and detectives are working around the clock in order to complete this investigation.”
When Rutherford appeared in court, friends and relatives gathered to proclaim his innocence. However, they were said to have given conflicting accounts of the youth’s whereabouts at the time of the shooting.
Then, in a startling turn of events, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Norm Frink confirmed to EastPDXNews that charges against Rutherford were dismissed on Thursday, June 4. “Rutherford is still in custody due to issues not related to this case,” Frink told us.
We asked PPB’s Wheat to comment on reports that Rutherford had given information that lead to charges being dropped against him.
Wheat replied, “After his arrest, Rutherford provided information concerning his innocence. Detectives followed up on the information, because they are good detectives, and eventually that cleared him. Detectives and the District Attorney’s Office always work together on homicide cases from the moment an investigation begins. We are not commenting on what led to the arrest or the release.”
At a Citizens Advisory meeting, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs says neighbors should watch out for the signs of gang problems brewing this summer.
A gang shooting?
At first, officials suggested that Washington’s death was the unintended result of gang shooting. Now, officials will only say that the investigation is continuing.
At a meeting on June 2, we asked Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs – who appropriately declined to comment on this specific case, because it is under investigation – to comment generally on gang activity in outer East Portland.
“It looks like gang activity is picking up, already,” Crebs told the group at the Citizens Advisory Meeting. “We’re working to deter gang members from their activities. We don’t have a [dedicated] gang team at East Precinct, but we do have officers who are paying attention to the gang situation.”
One gang that’s relatively new to outer East Portland, Crebs noted, is the “Family Kings”, whose graffiti has the “FK” moniker. Neighbors at the meeting pointed out that the Montessori School at SE 148 Avenue and SE Division Street has been defaced with the gang’s graffiti.
Crebs urged neighbors to be vigilant. “Youth violence seems to start out with a gathering. It could be a park, house or burger shop. If you see a problem developing, give us a call right away.”
© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News