Man with gun terrorizes drivers, shuts down freeway, before capture

See why his lawyer and relatives are pleading that he be let out of jail under pre-trial supervision …

A police officer blocks off NE Fremont Street, as a SERT team corners an alleged carjacker with a handgun.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The report of a man walking along the 122nd Avenue off-ramp from I-84 , wielding \ a handgun pointed at passing cars, ended up drawing 71 Portland Police Bureau (PPB) units to NE Fremont Street, between NE 102nd and 122nd Avenue, in the Parkrose neighborhood – and along that same area to the south on Interstate 84 – at about 10:00 a.m. on September 1.

“Callers reported that it appeared the man was trying to carjack drivers on the ramp,” said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.
“An officer arrived in the area and the suspect pointed the gun at the officer then ran through traffic on the freeway, Simpson continued – adding that multiple officers arrived in the area and all freeway traffic was shut down.

They didn’t hear gunshots, say Parkrose residents Caleb Jones and Eric Dulski – but they did see a massive police presence swarm their street.

“I was sitting on my front porch this morning,” said NE Fremont Street resident Caleb Jones. “I heard what sounded like a dozen police car sirens go by. Pretty soon there was a guy on an intercom giving commands.”

The commotion drew other residents out of the apartment building in which Jones lives, he told East Portland News. “I went around the corner and the cop told me to go back away from the street.”

After the suspect drew a bead on a PPB East Precinct District officer, the policeman raised a shotgun and fired two shots at the suspect. “A shot struck the suspect, grazing his hip,” Simpson reported. “The suspect, who ran off the North side of the freeway and collapsed in the 11200 block of NE Fremont Street.”

Police officers and a SERT crew move into the area to contain a suspect who is still carrying and waving a handgun.

In the neighborhood, officers began talking with the suspect, who refused to comply with commands, and indicated he wanted officers to shoot him, Simpson later reported. The Bureau’s Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) crew was able to safely approach the man, using an armored vehicle, and take him into custody and then render medical aid.

While the investigation continued, reporters learned that 27-year-old Denorris Laron McClendon had been taken to a Portland hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A handgun was recovered next to the suspect.

Detectives impound this black replica semi-automatic air pistol from the crime scene that they say McClendon was carrying and pointing at people during the incident. PPB photo

Neighborhood streets – and more importantly, to returning Labor Day weekend drivers, Interstate 84 – were re-opened at 2 p.m.

After being treated and released at the hospital, McClendon was booked in the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC), charged with twelve counts of Menacing, two counts of Reckless Endangerment, and two counts of Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree.

In court, 27-year-old Denorris Laron McClendon is charged with 15 counts, stemming from this incident. MCDC booking photo

When McClendon was arraigned in Multnomah County Court the following day, his publically-appointed defender entered “not guilty” pleas, and urged the court to release the suspect on “pre-trial supervision”, instead of holding him in jail in lieu of $160,000 combined bail.

Deputy District Attorney Shannon Erskine reminded the judge that McClendon had pointed a gun at a Traffic Division officer and other police during the incident. Circuit Court Judge Marilyn Litzenberger ordered McClendon to undergo a pre-trial supervision interview only, and for a future bail hearing.

At this writing, McClendon remain in custody at MCDC.

Detectives continue their investigation and gather evidence, after the suspect is taken into custody.

A man with a troubled past
While investigating the circumstances of the shooting and McClendon’s background, detectives learned he’d had contact with Portland Police officers previous evening, at approximately 8:00 p.m. on August 31.

The police contact was the result of a call from McClendon’s grandmother, Johnetta Burkett. She told police that McClendon was suffering from a paranoid delusion and was in the backyard of her home swinging a wooden dowel at shrubbery, looking for the FBI, Simpson revealed. “She said he’d been doing this for ‘a good part of the day’. Additionally, she told officers that McClendon had broken both arms four days earlier and had removed both casts himself.”

Officers spoke with McClendon and noted the apparent injuries to his arms that evening, and he agreed to go a Portland hospital by ambulance, where he was placed on a police hold for a mental health evaluation and medical treatment.

“Detectives learned that after McClendon’s release from the hospital, he had ingested a quantity of methamphetamine, prior to the 9-1-1 calls on I-84,” Simpson said.

His grandmother told reporters that McClendon was still grieving the loss of his mother, in addition to recovering from an assault in which his arms were broken and his teeth were smashed in – all of which, she suggested, may have led to his use of methamphetamine for “pain relief”.

Official records show that McClendon was not new to street drugs. He was convicted of felony cocaine possession in 2008, and had accumulated five misdemeanor convictions, and an additional felony conviction.

Police prepare to reopen NE Freemont Street, after the investigation draws to completion.

Detectives would like to hear from anyone who had contact with McClendon on I-84 or elsewhere.
Anyone with such information is asked to contact Detective Chris Traynor at (503) 823-0449, christopher.traynor@portlandoregon.gov; or, Detective Bryan Steed at (503) 823-0395, bryan.steed@portlandoregon.gov.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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