Makayla Harris, 18, was outside in the 300 block of Southeast Third Avenue around 2 a.m. when gunfire from a passing vehicle was sprayed intro the street. Six other people were injured, according to police. No arrests have been made.
Her death was one of two killings from four different shootings on a Saturday morning across the city, continuing a string of gun violence and associated homicides that has seen rates soar in the past six months.
According to relatives left mourning, Harris graduated from Grant High School in northeast Portland last month and was the youngest in a family of six siblings.
“I love you more than anything, baby girl,” a sister, Shauna Harris wrote on Facebook.
A cousin, Kyla Duncan, started a GoFundMe page to help the family with the expenses of funeral services and a memorial.
“Makayla had the most contagious smile you’ve ever seen, she always wanted to have fun and be around her family and friends,” Duncan wrote on the page, adding that Harris “was the most genuine and kind hearted person you could meet. She had a good soul and definitely didn’t deserve this.”
She was also remembered by Philip Humphrey, a Grant High coordinator for Self Enhancement, Inc., who described her as a “personality in such a small package,” posting a photo on Instagram showing him beside Harris at her graduation last month.
Mayor Ted Wheeler and Police Chief Chuck Lovell gathered the media Saturday to respond to Harris’ death and the latest in a string of shootings. Both said they would push hard for more officers and resources for the Portland Police Bureau, which has lost 125 sworn officers in the past year and faces new rounds of retiring officers in coming months.
Last year, in the wake of sustained protests against police brutality and racial injustice and calls to defund the police in favor of better mental health and other social services to prevent violence, Portland’s City Commission cut some funding and disbanded a gun violence reduction unit that also drew criticism for unfairly targeting Black men and other people of color.
Since then, Chief Lovell has assembled new teams aimed at curbing gun violence and solving a rash of shootings through both investigation and proactive intervention before shootings happen.
Some residents, however, question if that’s enough as the city marked its 50th and 51st homicides Saturday. There have been about 570 shooting incidents in Portland so far this year — more than twice the number recorded in the same time period last year. Police have said that about half of those shootings were gang-related.
“We’ve had many years of growth as a city and a shrinking police force (and) you can only go so long in that trend before you hit a tipping point,” Lovell said.
“If you go back to yesterday, we’ve had 11 shootings incidents resulting in 13 people injured or killed — and that’s in a span of 38 hours. Not only is this shocking, all these calls really tax resources.”
Lovell said it was too early to call Harris’ shooting death gang-related.
He called on anyone who witnessed the incident or had cell phone video or photos of the area before, during and after the shooting to contact police. No arrests have been made.
“We all want to know what happened and who did this and why, and I pledge that more information will come out as soon as possible. Investigators think there might be more victims and witnesses who left the scene, which is understandable given how terrifying and hectic that scene was,” he said.
--Associated Press contributed to this story.