Stabbing at Springwater Trail transient camp troubles neighbors

It is unclear exactly what happened, but two men were taken to the hospital – as was the alleged stabber. Find out what we have learned in this case, so far …

A large police presence indicated a serious situation had occurred here, near SE 92nd Avenue on SE Flavel Street, near the Springwater Trail. Reports are that two men, both with stab wounds, staggered into the corner market.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For as long as the Springwater Trail has existed in outer East Portland, authorities and neighbors have found that it serves as both a scenic bikeway for area residents – and a superhighway between transient camps, set up from Portland east to Gresham, along the trail.

Violence broke out in one of those camps, near the 9100 block of SE Flavel Street, early on the morning of Friday, August 21.

“First all the shouting, and then all of the police cars coming in the area, woke us up,” commented Candy Willis, an area resident.

According to Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat, police were called to the southerly area of the Lents Neighborhood at 5:39 a.m. “Officers were responding to a report of a stabbing incident that had just occurred. When officers arrived, they found two men who had been stabbed.”

In stands of trees, and under bridges and overpasses, transient camps abound in outer East Portland along the Springwater Trail.

While officers were at the scene, Wheat told us, a 36-year-old woman carrying a knife approached the officers. “She was taken into custody and transported to the hospital, because she was possibly suffering from excited delirium. She remains hospitalized, and may be charged; but detectives have not released the nature of the charges.”

The men who were stabbed were both transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, added Wheat.

Controversy surrounds ‘excited delirium’ term
When we researched the term “excited delirium”, we found that it is a controversial term used to explain serious health issues that can occur when some individuals are in police custody.

An individual exhibiting signs of excited delirium when being arrested or restrained shows a combination of agitation, violent or bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, or increased strength. The term has no formal medical recognition, and is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Portland Police Detectives charge this woman, 36-year-old Dawn Rae Johnson, with assault.

Later in the day, Detective Wheat gave us an update: “It appears at this time that 36-year-old Dawn Rae Johnson attacked the two stabbing victims in the [transient] camp and detectives are continuing to look at motive in this case.”

Portland Police Assault Detectives leveled two charges, Wheat said, one count of Assault in the First Degree and one count of Assault in the Second Degree. “Johnson has been admitted to an area hospital but is in police custody. This is an ongoing investigation and detectives will continue to investigate this incident throughout the weekend.”

Neighbors hope that things will calm down at the transient camps, here around these apartments in the Lents Neighborhood – and they won’t soon again be greeted by the early-morning arrival of a dozen police cars.

“Most of the people who camp out around the trail, and under the bridge where SE Flavel Street goes over Johnson Creek by I-205, don’t bother us,” said Willis, who lives in the apartments just east of the trail in the 9100 block of SE Flavel Street. “But sometimes, when they are drunk or high, and come stumbling out, I’m afraid for myself and my kids. There are some pretty rough characters camped out around here.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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