Triple homicides top topic at outer East Portland police forum

Although Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer had just been invited to speak about her bureau’s budget – neighbors spent most of that meeting grilling homicide detectives about the trio of murders in November. See what Sizer revealed about police cutbacks in our future …

The vice chair of the Centennial Community Association, Ron Clemenson, says the trio of murders has neighbors on edge.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At the East Precinct Citizens Advisory Forum on December 2, Ronald Clemenson, Vice Chair of the Centennial Community Association, didn’t mince words as he summed up the feelings expressed by many of the 80 neighbors packed into the room.

“We are very concerned about what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Clemenson said. “We’ve had three homicides in three weeks, within six blocks of one another. This is not good. A lot of people are worried, in our neighborhood. That’s why we’re here at this meeting.”

Clemenson has a demonstrated interest in outer East Portland public safety issues. He attends the monthly precinct forums, works diligently in his neighborhood association on livability issues – and, earlier this year, organized a Public Safety Forum attended by 120 concerned citizens.

During this meeting, a neighbor brought up that March 11 forum, at which a dozen Portland and Gresham city and Multnomah County elected and appointed officials testified how their combined efforts have reduced crime problems in the area – while citizens attending disagreed with the rosy picture the bureaucrats painted. (CLICK HERE to read our coverage of the Spring Public Safety Forum.)

November’s trio of murders

  • On Friday, November 14, East Precinct officers found the lifeless body of 37-year-old Amatha Mendive behind a strip mall in the 16100 block of SE Stark Street. “Immediately upon arrival, officers observed signs of homicidal violence to the victim’s body, and called Homicide Detectives to conduct an investigation,” reported Portland Police Bureau’s Sgt. Brian Schmautz.
  • Update: Suspects identified (see below) On Sunday, November 23, officers found the body of 35-year-old Abel Delgado-Morales inside an apartment in the 15800 block of SE Stark Street, after responding to a call of a reported shooting. An autopsy determined that the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds. “Based on information from witnesses, investigators believe the victim was at the residence visiting friends when a suspect or suspects arrived at the residence, confronted the victim, and shot him,” Schmautz noted.
  • On Saturday, November 29, 54-year-old Roland Jackson Dir was found dead in a home in the 500 block of SE 155th Avenue. “The Multnomah County Medical Examiner determined that Dir died of Homicidal Violence,” Schmautz said. “For investigative reasons, detectives are withholding specific information about the cause of death.”

Anyone with information about any of these homicides is asked to call Detective Steve Ober at (503) 823-4033 or Detective Jim McCausland at (503) 823-0449.

Sergeant Rich Austria and Commander John Eckhart from the Portland Police Bureau Homicide Division talk about the three homicides in outer East Portland.

Neighborhood not a target
As the meeting began, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander, Michael Crebs, introduced Chief Rosie Sizer. He then turned the program over to Sergeant Rich Austria, who was joined by Commander John Eckhart from the Portland Police Bureau’s Homicide Division.

“I know that there are concerns about the recent homicides that have occurred in the neighborhood,” Austria began. “There’s not a lot I can share about the investigation, for obvious reasons – but we don’t believe, based on information that we have, that [murderers] are targeting your neighborhood specifically.”

These homicides aren’t random acts of violence, Austria added.

No common suspects identified
Austria continued, saying he didn’t believe there was one common suspect associated with all three murders. “We have leads in all three investigations that we’re following.”

Unless there is an eyewitness to a murder, Austria detectives start by determining with whom victim was associated.

“In about 85% of homicides, victims know their suspects in some fashion,” the detective continued. “It could be by association – people they know who are prone to violence. Or, it is lifestyle-related – hanging out with people who are involved in crime, drugs, and prostitution, or are involved in domestic violence.”

Working from the victim “outward”, detectives talk with family members, friends and neighbors, building up a “picture” of the victim and their life.

“I come here to solicit your help,” requested Austria. “Share with us information; or call Crime Stoppers if you want to be anonymous.”

The Community Room at East Precinct was filled to overflowing as concerned citizens asked for answers regarding the serious crimes in their neighborhoods.

Questions and Answers

Q Are the murders gang related?

A “No, We don’t have history of [the victims] being involved in gangs. But there is a lot of gang activity in the area,” Austria replied.

Q A neighbor said his family lives within the “murder triangle” and he was concerned about unsupervised kids coming and going to school. “Are our kids safe?” he asked.

A “We don’t have any information that anyone is targeting children,” Austria said.

Q “Wouldn’t increased police presence deter people from committing serious crimes, like murders?” a neighbor asked.

A “Many murders, including at least one of these,” replied Austria, “occurred in a home or apartment. Even if police were patrolling every street, there would be no way for them to know what is happening inside homes.”

Centennial neighborhood landlord Moe Farhoud told detectives, Commander Crebs and Chief Rosie Sizer, “We need action, and we need it now.”

Apartment owner calls for action
“I own apartment complexes from 122nd Avenue out to 190th Avenue,” said Centennial neighborhood landlord Moe Farhoud, as he stood up to address the officials in the room.

“My tenants are calling my office and complaining. Some want to move out, others are concerned about being safe. We need action, and we need it now.”

Commander Crebs replied, “If your tenants, or anyone, sees suspicious activities, they need to call us. Also, check into our Enhanced Safety Properties program.”

Farhoud shot back, “Just talking doesn’t help. We need the Mayor here tonight. We need action. We need to do something.”

East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs responds to neighbors about their concerns regarding the murders by providing factual information.

“What kind of action?” asked Crebs.

Other landlords need to do their homework when it comes to accepting tenants, Farhoud replied. “We have vacancies; we turn down people who are no good. We need to enforce not renting to bad people.”

To this Crebs stated, “We can’t and don’t enforce who lives where.”

Complains of high density, low income housing
A woman spoke up, sharing her concern: “You, sir, have tenants who can move out. I own my house and I can’t move away. The way things are, I can’t even sell it. There is way too much low-income housing concentrated in the area.”

Crebs noted that the East Portland Action Plan is “looking at the problems created by high density” in the area.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer says her bureau’s budget may be cut – once again.

Chief warns of coming budget cuts
A neighbor complained that an officer told him only two police cruisers patrol his neighborhood. “I live in the middle of this, and I’m concerned.”

Chief Sizer stepped and said, “What I came to talk about was preempted by the importance of the recent homicides. Our bureau’s budget has a direct effect on the number of officers that are on the street – the budget issue is important.”

The police bureau has a $150 million budget, Sizer reported. “Yes, we are considered ‘expensive’. We respond to calls from you, restore order, and make investigations. And, we provide services to help prevent crime.”

Chief bemoans repeated cuts
Sizer shared that the Police Bureau’s budget was “repeatedly cut” during the 1990s, and again at the turn of the century. “We’re in another financial downturn. We’ve been asked to provide [the Portland City Council] with a 2% cut – that’s a $3.5 million reduction; and a 5% cut – a $7 million decrease.”

Within a community budget discussion on December 1, Sizer said citizens worked with representatives of the Police Bureau by ranking 100 police programs from most to least important. “We want to make sure we’re not cutting core, versus non-core, functions. We’re looking at how we can restructure. I don’t see we will emerge unscathed.”

Clemenson floats a petition
After the meeting, Clemenson said he was concerned – very concerned – about impending Police Bureau budget cuts. “Public safety is our number one priority; our number one consideration.”

Holding up a petition he’d circulated during the meeting bearing about 70 signatures, Clemenson said, “It’s addressed to Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, but it applies to all of the commissioners. We have to get the attention of the officials controlling the purse strings. We want our Police Bureau to be fully staffed; to do that, they need the support of the City Council.”

A Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge has issued arrest warrants for 21-year-old Cristobel Medrano-Alvarado and 21-year-old Jose Santiago Carvajal-Mota in connection with the shooting death of Delgado-Morales. The warrants charge both suspects with one count of Aggravated Murder. The suspects were identified through the ongoing investigation. Both suspects are considered armed and dangerous.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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