There have been a number of assaults on the houseless population of Portland recently, and last week several St Johns neighbors were horrified when a reported incident happened outside their homes. 

These assaults have neighbors, advocates, and news sources on edge, keeping an ever-vigilant eye out for this situation.

Most recently, four teenagers assaulted a houseless man in downtown Portland. The call went unanswered by police after a dispatcher wrongly said only the victim can report an assault. Street Roots has also been keeping track of these assaults.

Street Roots reports: “Assault on tent campers among spate of violence against unhoused”

On the night of Friday, September 27th, Village Portland was contacted by a concerned neighbor, named Moon Wise, who reached out to me about an assault of a houseless individual in St. Johns. (They chose to use their Facebook name for this story, fearing retribution from the alleged attacker.)

This account was also confirmed by another neighbor who witnessed the assault, posted about it on a St. Johns Facebook group, then immediately removed the posting.

On the night of Wednesday, September 25, a homeless neighbor was collecting cans as he usually did.

Near the crossroads of Fessenden Street and Mohawk Avenue, he said was assaulted by a housed resident who shot him dozens if not hundreds of times with paint balls at point-blank range. He was left with dozens of welts and bruises all over his body, and he also believes that his hand might be broken along with several ribs.

Citywide reporting

It wasn’t long before I found KGW’s report on the situation. Their brief report stated that a homeowner used a paintball gun to assault a houseless man. They also reported attack resulted in the houseless man being hospitalized.

However, their reporting left many questions about what happened unanswered. One glaring thing that Moon Wise wanted to be pointed out was that the alleged attacker isn’t a homeowner as KGW claimed he was.

In an exchange shared with Village Portland, a representative from the news station said the only on-record information they could get was from the police. They offered to “try to send someone out there” if someone would agree to talking on camera.

The neighbors declined the offer.

According to Wise, the assault was also far more brutal than KGW first reported. After reaching out to that neighbor it was divulged to Village Portland that the posting was removed from the FB group out of fear of retaliation from the assailant on the witness or their family.

With the help of St Johns advocates, the victim (who took an assumed name of Chris) spoke to us about the attack.

They said that night while looking for cans, he was locked in a dumpster by some neighborhood kids who also stole his backpack and bag of cans. He further explains when he was attacked and what led up to that.

Listen to the audio interview on KBOO Community Radio‘s 5 pm News, tonight (October 2nd).

“I did look in his car but I was looking to see if it was manual or automatic”. Chris explained in that interview that he did this because “my little brother has an engine for a Honda and he wants a car and I figured because it was on jack stands I figured they might want to sell it”. 

He explains that the alleged attacker came out flashing a gun which he pocketed when a neighbor came out of their house. He then told a friend to grab his paintball gun while telling Chris the police were being called. Chris, feeling he didn’t do anything wrong, was willing to wait for the cops until a friend of the alleged attacker told him to shoot the houseless individual. 

“When I started to run he was running with me shooting me and he wouldn’t stop” stated the victim, “So I ran up and knocked on a door but they weren’t home but he hit me a couple of times in the ribs and I couldn’t breathe so I fell down and he continued to shoot me even though I was begging him to stop.” 

Chris also further states in that interview that the friend of the alleged attacker who told him to shoot him was someone Chis knew from the neighborhood and that he was afraid to press charges against Tomas because of that.

Photos of Chris’ injuries:

According to a witness, the incident began because the alleged shooter felt that Chris was either trying to mess with or possible steal his vehicle. It should also be noted that according to the witness, Moon Wise, and other neighbors the car possesses no working engine and is currently on jack stands. This was confirmed by an examination of the assailants’ recent social media postings.

Confirming Chris’ story, the neighbor said that after a chase the victim ended up screaming “please stop”, and was then cornered on one of the assailant’s neighbor’s front porches near the doorway. The assailant only stopped shooting when he ran out of ammo, they said, but then reloaded and continued to fire.

Eventually, the attack ended, an ambulance was called for him, and officers took statements but never arrested the assailant. “The biggest fear of [the houseless individuals] was that cops would steal his tent” according to the witness who also had to calm him down to be taken for medical treatment.

Chris said that at the hospital, his treatment was wound cleaning, even though he suspects he received a concussion and possibly broken or fractured bones.

Neighbors respond

Neighbors are terrified by the situation and how it concluded.

This was why Moon Wise reached out to Village Portland⁠— to try and understand why there wasn’t an arrest for such a violent assault and to make sure this incident didn’t go unknown. Wise and other neighbors are fearful of having someone so violent living near them and are questioning why the assailant isn’t in jail for assault. Moon has even emailed Mayor Ted Wheeler‘s office about the incident inquiring why.

This inspired Village Portland to reach out to several advocates working in St. Johns to locate Chris. Before any of the advocates had found him four more neighbors on that block reached out to Village Portland as well and expressed their concern that such a dangerous individual was never arrested that night. 

His neighbors said that the alleged attacker and owner of the vehicle has been seen periodically patrolling his block openly carrying a pistol even while children are present, and that he is often a source of multiple problems in the neighborhood. 

Village Portland contacted the alleged attacker and owner of the vehicle in question, [the alleged shooter’s name was retracted when he said he didn’t consent to it being published] for comment on the incident through social media. He provided a cell phone recording of the security footage showing Chris near his car. Due to the poor quality of the footage, it is difficult to determine exactly what Chris was doing.

He insisted that it “clearly shows [Chris] searching my vehicle” but the recording also ends before the chase and alleged assault with the paintball gun began. 

The Honda’s owner said he found a broken key in the door of the Honda but provided no proof. He also wrote, “I don’t know what his intentions were, just that it wasn’t searching for cans in my vehicle.”

When asked about the paintball assault, he only responded with, “he obviously knows he was guilty of something…” and didn’t answer any further questions.

Village Portland also contacted PPB’s North Precinct for information to this case. They confirmed the attack occurred, and also stated that the case has been referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. Angry neighbors are continuing to email officials asking for charges to be pressed.

Along with their attempts to bring the attacker to justice, there has been an outpouring of neighborly support for Chris. The neighbors provided Chris with cold-weather supplies, are trying to find him work, and have arranged followup medical care at Outside In, a resource for the homeless community.


Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.

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Facebook: Cory Elia
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