25 years ago Eddie Morgan was shot to death on the corner of Northeast 42nd and Alberta in what remains an unsolved murder. The mentally challenged, 46-year-old was an icon of the neighborhood, a kind spirit with a gruff tone who frequently walked along 42nd Avenue by announcing to his neighbors the weather report.
“Looks like rain!” or “snow in the mountains!” were some of the catch phrases he would say.
“We called him the Mayor of 42nd Street,” Jane Ingram, a longtime neighbor, told the Portland Observer. “Everybody knew Eddie…he’d stop into all the businesses and was always checking in with everybody.”
At about 4 a.m. on May 29, 1994, Duke Sultzer heard multiple gunshots and looked outside to see Morgan clutching a bus bench in front of the US Bank on 42nd Avenue. As he rushed to provide aid, Morgan collapsed to the sidewalk. Sultzer was credited with trying to save his life with emergency CPR.
Morgan was disabled from birth and the shooting was apparently random.
Debra Brocato, used to talk to Eddie Morgan when he visited her flower shop, the now-closed Alameda Floral.
“We were all just really, really shocked to hear that he was shot in a drive by,” she said. “He was just a big, sweet teddy bear.”
The only description of the suspects at the time was three males in a late 1970s or early 80s dark-colored Buick or Oldsmobile. A 9mm aluminum shell casing was spotted by Ingram’s husband, Mike Joancsik, 30 or 40 feet from where Morgan’s body was found, within a two week period of the incident, and was later picked up by police.
“Thinking about it now, it gets me upset. He was probably just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Pete Parsons, a friend of Morgan’s and a former TV weathercaster.
According to reports, Morgan had been concerned with growing crime at the time he was killed. In 1994 the per-capita homicide rate in Portland was 10 per 100,000 people; more than double the 4 per 100,000 deaths recorded last year, according to Portland Police Bureau and US Census statistics.
A photo of then-Mayor Vera Katz honoring Morgan in a ceremony that took place just a few weeks before his death used to adorn the wall of the now shuttered Magoo’s Tavern on 42nd Avenue. Morgan would frequently visit the establishment, where Sultzer tended bar, to have conversations with neighbors, though he was not a drinker, Joancsik said.
Morgan lived with his sister and mother in an apartment just two blocks east from where he took his last breath. He was also known for doing odd jobs for local businesses, often without pay.
“At first I was a little afraid of him because he walked really fast and he was a husky guy. And I didn’t understand him,” said Parsons, who had known Eddie since he was a child. “I think back then my mom informed us that he was safe, he was ok. And so we all just accepted him as Eddie.”