By GILLIAN FLACCUS
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Cameron Taylor was watching an illegal street race that drew hundreds of people to an intersection in Portland, Ore., but decided to leave as the crowd grew increasingly unruly. Moments later, gunfire rang out and Taylor was hit by a stray bullet as he and a friend walked to their car.
Police, who were inundated with 911 calls about other shootings, were unable to control several street takeovers in the city that night and struggled to find the victims of three shootings that occurred during the chaos.
“His friend who was with him put him in the car and drove him to the hospital, but he couldn’t make it and that friend called his parents” to say that Taylor was dead, said Erin Russell, a family friend. Associated Press.
Taylor, 20, died Sunday the same day four high-profile public shootings in Bend, Oregon, Phoenix, Detroit and Houston made national headlines. His murder has gone largely unnoticed amid the daily toll of gun violence that has defined Portland and a number of other American cities since the pandemic.
Homicide rates appear to be falling in some major US cities, such as New York and Chicago, but in others murders are on the rise, particularly by firearms. In Portland, the homicide rate has jumped 207% since 2019 and there have been more than 800 shootings so far this year. In Phoenix, Police Chief Jeri Williams said this week the gun violence was the worst she had seen in 33 years on the job.
“How many more officers need to be shot?” How many members of the community still need to be killed before those of our community take a stand? It’s not just a Phoenix police problem, it’s a community problem,” she said after a weekend that saw 17 shootings and 11 homicides across the city.
Now police are on edge as Labor Day weekend approaches, with its traditional end-of-summer festivities, and some are adding extra patrols as they prepare for more potential violence.
In Portland, police busy with three murders and nine non-fatal shootings in 48 hours couldn’t control three illegal street races last weekend that drew hundreds and closed major intersections for hours. In Houston, the day after a gunman shot five neighbors, killing three, another man shot two sisters before killing himself.
In the past two weeks, Phoenix authorities have confiscated 711 guns and made 525 gun-related arrests in a targeted crackdown. Nearly 90% of homicides there this year have been committed by firearm, police said. In Detroit, where a man is accused of shooting three random people on city streets last weekend, authorities are also cracking down on gun violence in high-crime neighborhoods through Labor Day .
“Let’s stop talking about our inability to respond to crime in the community. Let’s stop advertising to criminals that they’re going to get away with it,’ Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said, using an expletive during a city council meeting this week after Police Chief Chuck Lovell once again asked for more officers.
“I think we should stop using messaging at every turn, that the reason we can’t help our citizens with basic criminal justice issues is because we don’t have the staff,” said Wheeler. “We need to find better ways to deal with this crisis.”
Last weekend’s rampages – which included a heavily armed assailant who stormed a central Oregon supermarket, random shootings in the streets of Detroit and a Phoenix man who opened fire while wearing a bulletproof vest – were shocking and frightening, but not representative of the broader toll. violence is gripping American society, experts say.
Victims killed in mass shootings make up about 1% of all those killed in firearm homicides nationwide, despite headlines that instill fear in many Americans, said James Fox, a professor at the Northeastern University which created a database of mass murders dating back to 2006 with The Associated Press and USA Today.
Last weekend’s four shootings didn’t even meet the database’s definition of a massacre – four or more people, excluding the assailant, killed in 24 hours – but they were sobering nonetheless. fear due to the random nature of violence, he added.
“These don’t tend to make the news. They don’t tend to scare people off because people say, “Well, that’s not my family,” Fox said. “We have up to 20,000 gun homicides a year, and most of them are single victim. Sometimes two, sometimes three, (but) rarely four or more.
The pandemic and the social unrest it caused also played a role. Eight million Americans became gun owners for the first time between 2019 and 2021, said Jeffrey Butts, director of the Center for Research and Evaluation at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. .
“We already had 400 million weapons in circulation. So when you increase that and include a lot of newbies in the population, you get crashes, you get rushed behavior, you get people reacting to little insults and clashes with their guns because they’re in their pocket now,” he said. said.
Meanwhile, Taylor’s friends and family are mourning her death in Portland.
The car enthusiast and beloved big brother who enjoyed barbecues and spending time with his family was “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Russell said.
“He has a lot of friends and a lot of family who love him very much, and it’s a devastating loss.”
Associated Press reporter Walt Berry in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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