Gang-related murder at the ‘Mystic’

The death in outer East Portland’s Hazelwood Neighborhood had little to do with the ‘gentlemen’s club’ where it happened, it turns out. See what we did learn about our latest gang-related murder …

Police swarm the parking lot of the Mystic Gentlemen’s Club in the Mall 205 area, after a car crashes through the parking lot – and a gunshot-wounded man falls out of his car there.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On SE Yamhill Street, A few blocks away from what became a crime scene, Rick Humphrey – a participant in the Montavilla Neighborhood Watch – was out for a stroll, late on July 18.

“I heard to what I thought were loud crash sounds,” Humphrey told East Portland News. “But, then, I started hearing police sirens – a lot of police car sirens.”

It took only minutes for Humphrey walk the five blocks to the outer East Portland Mystic Gentlemen’s Club straddling SE Stark and Washington Streets just east of SE 99th Avenue, he said.

It soon becomes clear that police are not simply investigating a parking lot smashup.

“I came over to see what all the commotion was about, and found all the police cars here, at the bar,” Humphrey said. “At that point, police didn’t yet know what was on was going on.”

But what he did see is was a man, later identified as 31-year-old Robert Edward Ford Jr., with a “whole bunch of towels on his head. They put him in an ambulance and transported him out of here.”

Officers examine the car that hit several other vehicles in the parking lot, before ramming into the “party bus”, where the critically-wounded driver ended up.

Jose Herrera said he saw the aftermath of the incident. “I heard shots and then crashes, and ran to see what was going on. This guy fell out of a white car that smashed right into a ‘party bus’ parked at the club. He was all bloody.”

With a party going inside the night club, and numerous witnesses in and around the area, police officers were called into the scene all the way from Gresham to Central Precinct – including Traffic Division motorcycle officers.

Arriving detectives tried to unravel the odd incident that included several smashed cars in the nightclub’s parking lot – and a victim shot in the head.

Officers interview witnesses, and get a description of the suspect car – and the direction it went when it took off.

“Witnesses at the shooting scene told police that a silver vehicle, possibly a Lexus, was involved in the shooting,” said Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Sgt. Peter Simpson. “They said it was last seen headed eastbound on Stark Street from the parking lot.”

Hearing the radio dispatch, an alert Gresham police officer spotted a car matching the broadcast description in his mid-County district at 11:43 p.m. “He stopped the vehicle, occupied by four people at SE 192nd Avenue and East Burnside Street,” reported Simpson.

The sharp-eyed Gresham officer’s instincts turned out to be on-target and helpful, in what has turned into a felony murder case. Robert Ford, the victim, died of his injuries.

On July 19, Simpson revealed, “Portland Police Bureau Homicide detectives have arrested two men and one woman in connection with the shooting.”

Police accuse Cleveland Dante Nelson III and Mark Edward Hardy Jr. of Felony Murder, and India Ludelia Vasquez is charged with Tampering with Physical Evidence, in this case.

28-year-old Cleveland Dante Nelson III of NE Portland and 27-year-old Mark Edward Hardy Jr. of North Portland were arrested and charged with Murder. 25-year-old India Ludelia Vasquez was arrested for Tampering with Physical Evidence, Simpson revealed.
On July 19, Nelson was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 3:29 p.m.; and Hardy at 4:46 p.m. They’re both being held, without bail, on Felony Murder charges.

Vasquez was booked into MCDC at 4:13 p.m., and is charged with Tampering with Physical Evidence, a Class A Misdemeanor, and her bail is set at $2,500.

Into the wee hours of the morning, witnesses are interviewed by officers and detectives continuing to gather evidence.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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