A server headed to work at Sushi Ichiban in Portland’s Old Town was delayed Friday morning because her bus had to be detoured around the scene of a fatal stabbing on West Burnside Street and Northwest Third Avenue.
When the same sushi server clocked out of work at the restaurant on Northwest Broadway on Friday night, she saw police tape and the body of a second stabbing victim lying in the crosswalk of Northwest Couch Street, less than a block from the restaurant.
“We’re all fed up with this,” said Nori Sugiyama, a coworker at the sushi restaurant during a smoke break Sunday afternoon.
The Old Town neighborhood’s second fatal stabbing on Friday marked Portland’s third homicide that day. By Saturday morning, the city would record four homicides within 24 hours, pushing the city’s homicide count to 76 so far this year. At this time last year, Portland recorded 73 homicides and ended 2021 with a record of 92.
The spate started with a shooting shortly after 2 a.m. Friday near an apartment complex on Southeast 148th Avenue, followed by the two stabbings within five blocks of each other in Old Town, and was punctuated by an early-morning spray of gunfire Saturday along Northeast Fremont Street, just west of 162nd Avenue.
Police have made arrests in three of the killings. All the arrested on murder allegations had prior arrests and convictions.
At 2:14 a.m. on Friday, police responded to gunshots in the 200 block of Southeast 148th Avenue near the Cedar Tree Apartments. A man was taken by private car to a city hospital, where he died. Police have not identified him.
By Friday night, police arrested Stephen Matthew Toelle on his 31st birthday. He’s accused of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, unlawful use of a gun and felon in possession of a firearm.
Resident Vanessa Smith said she was playing a video game when she heard about five shots.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t even have words for it. You never know where bullets are going to fly anymore.”
In January, Toelle, of Happy Valley, was sentenced in Clackamas County for driving under the influence of intoxicants and driving while suspended. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison, with credit for time served, and his driver’s license was suspended for life.
He has prior gun convictions. In 2017, he was convicted in Clackamas County of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possessing cocaine. Court records indicate he suffers from a bipolar disorder and depression.
At 11:28 a.m. Friday, police responded to a stabbing on West Burnside Street and Northwest Third Avenue, across the street from the Union Gospel Mission.
A man was killed, and police arrested 50-year-old Dorian Ambrose Cannon nearby. Cannon is accused of second-degree murder and unlawful use of a weapon.
Records show he has a history of mental illness.
Last Tuesday, Cannon was arrested in Clackamas County, accused of disorderly conduct by obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. He was released from custody the next day, court records show.
In August 2021, Cannon was accused of vandalizing someone’s boat in Multnomah County, drinking alcohol on the boat and taking the boat owner’s Skidoo watercraft for a ride. In that case, he was found unable to assist in his own defense in January of this year, based on a past Oregon State Hospital evaluation and a mental health diagnosis, according to court records.
Defendant “requires a hospital level of care” due to his “dangerousness and the acuity of symptoms of the defendant’s qualifying mental disorder,” the court record said.
But by May of this year, the court was told Cannon was ready to be placed back into the community. Multnomah County Circuit Judge Nan G. Waller signed an order for a “community mental health program to consult” with Cannon to determine whether “community restoration services are present and available in the community.” A report returned to the court days later remains sealed.
In June of this year, Cannon pleaded guilty to criminal mischief. Prosecutors said in court records they’d recommend he be sentenced to one year in prison, with credit for time served. It’s unclear when he was released from custody.
He’s also on post-prison supervision stemming from a 2020 bias crime conviction in Multnomah County, when police allege he was hanging on a bus windshield and then pulled a knife, attempting to enter the bus. He told police he used racist slurs to refer to the driver, who was Black. He has 16 probation violations, 31 misdemeanor convictions and 12 felony convictions, according to court records.
At 8:34 p.m. Friday, police responded to a stabbing at Northwest Broadway and Couch Street.
Sugiyama and co-worker John Babcock, of Sushi Ichiban on Broadway, said they saw a man’s body lying in the Couch Street crosswalk. “When I came out, he was already on the ground,” Sugiyama said of the victim.
Police arrested Kalil Clifford Ford, 20, of Portland, nearby. Ford is known to hang out at the corner, where several men were seen living in a tent, according to people who work and live in the area.
Ford was arrested last Wednesday, days before the stabbing, on an assault allegation. He was accused of assaulting a woman who used a walker on Northwest 14th Avenue, punching her in the head and striking her with a broom handle, leaving her bloodied. When stopped, he told police, “She made me assault her,” an affidavit said.
He was booked overnight, held until his court arraignment last Thursday and then released on his own recognizance.
Records show that he “would stare for long periods of time and then eventually would say completely random off topic things,” when court officials attempted to interview him in custody. They were unable to conduct a risk assessment of him. On Friday, he was back in custody, accused of murder.
The two stabbings in the city’s Old Town neighborhood appeared to involve people living on the streets, according to people who live and work nearby.
“These tragedies are profoundly sad & highlight the terror & trauma our unhoused neighbors live with each day,” wrote Scott Kerman, director of Old Town’s Blanchet House, which offers free meals, transitional beds and other services for people experiencing homelessness, in a Twitter post over the weekend.
Lucas Ritter, who lives on Northwest Couch Street less than a block from the fatal stabbing, said he’s disturbed by the killings but not surprised.
“It sucks to say, but I’m kinda used to it,” he said.
At 1:22 a.m. Saturday, police responded to gunshots fired along Northeast Fremont Street, west of 162nd Avenue, outside the Zachary Park Apartments.
Elisha Gonzalez, a father of three daughters who lives in Northeast Portland, said the gunfire was loud right outside his second-floor unit at Zachary Park Apartments on Northeast Fremont Street.
“I woke up to gunshots, sounded like a machine gun,” said Elisha Gonzalez, a father of three. “I grabbed my kids and hit the floor.”
He estimated he heard about 30 gunshots. When he and his family emerged from their apartment later that morning, he found a bullet had struck his wife’s parked car on Fremont. Another bullet hit just below the window of the first-floor apartment directly under theirs, and bullet casings littered the street, he said.
He said one of his daughters was picking them up and he told her not to. “We’re ready to move out of here,” he said. “It’s not safe.”
A native of California, he said he’s lived in Portland for just over 12 years. “I love it over here, but Portland has changed a lot since the pandemic. He said he doesn’t see police as much as he’d like in the neighborhood.
“People are just too scared to say anything,” he said.
Others tell him not to speak up, but Gonzalez said he responds: “That’s why things are happening, because you guys are keeping your mouth shut.’’
At 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Portland police were sent to respond to a shots fired call on Southeast 120th Avenue.
— Maxine Bernstein
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