Ali Hamad returned to work in a food cart in downtown Portland on Saturday evening just 17 hours after he witnessed a shooting that injured seven people and killed a young woman.
His co-worker at Buns in the Run food cart thought he heard fireworks around 2am on Southwest Third Avenue.
But Hamad knew the sound of gunfire.
He heard at least 15 to 20 shots and said he saw a 2000s blue Mustang turn left on South Harvey Milk Street and down Third, where it looked like two men shot at a crowd of people on the corner of Harvey Milk and Third.
He said he saw four people injured and a young woman lying on the ground receiving help from a bystander who put pressure on her wound and did CPR.
“It was a typical drunken crowd on a Friday night,” Hamad said. “It was shortly after 2am when people started leaving the premises, it was people having fun, laughing.”
A food cart customer was shot in the leg while waiting for an order, Hamad said.
“This was a strange incident, so I feel a little skeptical about coming to work. “But this is my only income,” said Hamad. “I have seen police officers patrolling the area, trying to be present or prevent any violence.”
Joel DeLaRiva, son of Mi Casita food truck owners, said his mother left work at 12:30 a.m. when she was tired after a long day and had a “gut feeling” that something was wrong. It looked like a normal night, but when the family returned in the morning, the entire block was separated from the police and the family was not allowed to enter the food truck.
Joel DeLaRiva said the family does not feel safe after the shooting.
Within a two-block shooting range, there are about 10 bars and about eight strip clubs. Many of the nearby buildings, including the former Cameron Bookstore and a club called Silverado, have been boarded. The food cart block, a popular crawl for late night food, is filled with flooded city trash cans.
Several buildings in the area appear to have had external security cameras, including the Church of Scientology at 309 SW Third Ave. Kevin Allen, public information officer for the Portland Police Department, said detectives and forensics would work to obtain video evidence, including any captured by business surveillance systems, from the shooting.
The area around the shooting is known for its nightlife, said Walter Weyler, co-chair and president of the Portland Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Weyler, alarmed by the crime and recent shootings in downtown Portland, said he hopes the city council is paying attention.
“I know they are, and I hope they are serious about funding initiatives to ensure security and livelihood in our city,” he said. “It is impossible for me to imagine that our city will have any chance of recovering without having a serious effort to control crime in our downtown area.”
Weyler said many of the small businesses near the shooting have experienced damage, mostly to windows. “Those owners and employees are somewhat against it,” he said. “A greater police presence will help. And it does not have to be brutal activity on behalf of the police, but their presence makes a difference. And if they have a low staff and no manpower to be present in these areas, there is no attempt to control civil misconduct. “
Weyler said the neighborhood association’s safety and living group – a small group of volunteers – is in contact with business leaders and homeowners across Portland, helping them decide what they can do to protect themselves and to express their concerns as well as letting them know the association is taking initiatives with its links to the city council and Portland police aimed at supporting security in the city.