Gangster’s shots blow out innocent driver’s window in Lents

Officials don’t know why this suspected gang member allegedly whipped out his pistol and started shooting at the AM/PM Mini-Mart on SE Holgate Boulevard. But, find out what police did about it – and what steps they’re taking to halt gang violence …

After unsuccessfully negotiating the purchase of a cigar at this ARCO AM/PM Mini-market, witnesses say the shooter headed north [toward the camera] and opened fire at a vehicle parked in an auto repair shop’s driveway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even the sound of a truck backfiring makes folks throughout outer East Portland duck for cover, as gang member gunplay increases.

On January 14 – this time, in the Lents area – gunfire broke out, as a suspected gang member opened fire at the intersection of SE Holgate Boulevard and SE 92nd Avenue.

“The suspect had gone into the market,” Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz told us. “When he came out of the market, it appears as if shots were fired. Because of the close proximity to the store, there is surveillance video of the crime occurring.”

Shooting shatters innocent’s window
According to the office manager at R-Boes Automotive repair shop across Holgate from the AM/PM market, a car pulled into their lot around 2:15 p.m. “The car just sat there. Then we heard gunshots, and saw a man running toward us (north) shooting at the car; maybe a half-dozen shots.”

Apparently the gunman’s aim wasn’t good; his target vehicle escaped without damage, she said.

However, a Lexus SUV driven by Maria Swearingen – she was heading westbound on SE Holgate Boulevard, approaching the 92nd Avenue intersection – was hit by at least two bullets that shattered the vehicle’s rear window. “She wasn’t involved in any way with the suspect or his intended target,” Schmautz noted. “She was caught in the cross-fire.”

Traffic along SE 92nd Ave, along Lents Park, was shut down for the afternoon and most of the evening until police convinced the suspect to surrender.

Vigilant citizens finger suspect
“Our mechanics saw the shooting and took off after the guy,” R-Boes’ office manager told us. One hopped into his car to follow [the shooter], and the other ran after him on foot as he ran [east on Holgate then south] on the trail along the freeway. [The mechanics] told police which house he went into.”

The description the mechanics gave the police, and surveillance video footage from the AM/PM market, helped police quickly identify the subject who witnesses said ran into a residence on SE Pardee Street, just a block east of from Lents Park.

Police block off SE Pardee St., just east of SE 92nd Avenue across from Lents Park, where they believe the suspected gangster gunman who shot up an innocent driver’s car is holed up.

Subject unwilling to give up
We asked Schmautz why the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) was called out to the scene.

“At first, the suspect was being loud-hailed by officers,” replied Schmautz. “He didn’t respond to any of the loud-hails. We think the presence of additional equipment and the SERT officers coming into the area got him to change his mind, after he understand that the police were not leaving until he surrendered.”

Finally the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anthony Dwaine Bell, gave up and came out without further incident.

Finally, the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anthony Dwaine Bell, gave up without further incident.

SE 92nd Avenue remained closed into the evening hours, as detectives and members of the Gang Enforcement Unit obtained a search warrant.

The following day, we learned that Bell was charged with one count of Attempted Aggravated Murder, two counts of Attempted Aggravated Murder, and one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. “Investigators believe that there is a direct connection between this incident and recent shootings in both Portland [during a funeral service] and [New Year’s Eve shootings in] Gresham,” Schmautz added.

Commissioner of Police, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman announces “Operation Cool Down” – his plan to crack down on gang violence.

Commissioner calls for a ‘Gang Cool-down’
In response to the upswing of gang violence, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, now in charge of the Police Bureau, announced a mission called “Operation Cool Down” to “focus resources and enforcement on individuals and neighborhoods affected by gang violence”.

At a press conference at Portland City Hall on January 16, Saltzman presented plans to coordinate efforts of the Portland Police Bureau, Gresham Police Department, Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, and the United State Attorney’s Office.

Increasing the contact among gang members and police officers will help reduce gang violence, says Portland Police Bureau chief Rosie Sizer. She’s flanked by City of Gresham Mayor Shane T. Bemis and Commissioner Saltzman.

The Portland Police Bureau’s Chief Rosie Sizer said that police efforts in recent years have reduced gang activity. “As it was reduced, there was less of a day-to-day contact between patrol officers and gang members.  That is no longer going to be the case.”

Each police precinct, including East Precinct, she added, will put on officers who can identify gang activity initially. “Then, through in-service training over the next few months, gang unit officers and members of the HotSpot Action Team will teach street officers how to identify gang members, where they’re active, and whether that they may be carrying guns. The overall organizational capacity is going to be enhanced.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs listens to the presentation at City Hall before explaining how the two-officer patrol plan has already resulted in arrests.

Two-officer cars target gangsters
After the press conference, we asked Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs to strip away the political rhetoric, and explain how this plan will be executed.

“I’ve told all of my lieutenants on all three shifts to send out as many two-person cars out as possible,” Crebs told us in the Portland City Hall chambers. “The job of these two-person cars is to be looking for potential gang activity and known gang members.”

When officers double up, Crebs explained, they can stop and approach individuals immediately without having to call – and wait – for a backup officer to arrive on scene.

“Officers are looking for specific behaviors, not individuals,” Crebs said. “We want officers to start engaging people and talking to them.”

Plan pays off immediately
“Last night, officers in a two-person patrol car saw a vehicle commit a traffic violation and pulled them over,” the commander said. “In the course of the stop, they ended up recovering two guns and arresting three gang-associated gang individuals. This is just the first step, but it’s an important one.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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