A man accused of stabbing two people to death in Portland in June was previously arrested during a riot in downtown Portland a week prior to the killings but the charges were dropped when progressive District Attorney Mike Schmidt reportedly decided to not pursue charges.
“Cassy Leaton, 22, and Najaf ‘Nate’ Hobbs, 39, were stabbed on June 16 near Northeast Davis Street. Police arrested Phillip Lawrence Nelson, 39, two days later,” KOIN News reported Tuesday. “He faces two murder charges and is being held without bail. Just days before he allegedly killed Leaton and Hobbs, though, Nelson was taken into custody at a protest in downtown Portland. Court records show he was arrested on charges of interfering with a peace officer. Those charges were dismissed the next day.”
Journalist Andy Ngo noted that the charges from the “violent antifa protest” were dropped because the case “wasn’t pursued by the DA.”
The report from the local CBS affiliate says that investigators believe that the two victims were murdered as part of a dispute they had with Nelson over a renting issue.
“Leaton and Hobbs’ roommate told police that they were originally renting the unit in a fourplex from Nelson, who claimed to be the owner of the building, according to court records,” the outlet reports. “When the three roommates found out Nelson was actually just squatting there, they changed the locks to their unit, angering Nelson, records state.”
Sheriffs in Oregon have cited the fact that so many rioters in Portland have had their criminal charges dropped as reason that they will not be sending any deputies to the city to quell the nightly violence as part of a plan put together by the state’s governor.
Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown said she will be asking sheriff’s deputies from Clackamas and Washington county and Gresham to help Portland Police gain control of the embattled city. “The governor is convening a community forum on racial justice and police reform, which will include Black protest organizers and community leaders, as well as Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler,” KATU News reported.
Clackamas Sheriff Craig Roberts responded:
On Sunday, August 30th, I read that Governor Kate Brown announced a new plan to address the lawlessness happening in Portland. I was surprised to read that the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office was part of the plan since the Governor’s Office never contacted me.
Had Governor Brown discussed her plan with my office, I would have told her it’s about changing policy not adding resources. Increasing law enforcement resources in Portland will not solve the nightly violence and now, murder. The only way to make Portland safe again, is to support a policy that holds offenders accountable for their destruction and violence. That will require the DA to charge offenders appropriately and a decision by the Multnomah County Presiding Judge not to allow offenders released on their own recognizance, and instead require bail with conditions. The same offenders are arrested night after night, only to be released by the court and not charged with a crime by the DA’s Office. The next night they are back at it, endangering the lives of law enforcement and the community all over again.
For all of us in law enforcement, keeping our community safe is our first priority. Had Governor Brown asked me, I would have told her that no amount of human resources will stop the “cycle of violence” (her term) that is making Portland unsafe. For that to occur, the criminal justice system will need do its part and hold offenders accountable.
Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett responded:
Yesterday, Governor Brown issued a statement asking local law enforcement leaders to provide personnel and resources to assist the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), following Saturday’s shooting death that was connected to protests.
As Washington County Sheriff, I commit to support PPB through indirect ways, like analyzing risks associated with social media, air support, assisting with a specific criminal investigation, etc. At this time, I do not plan to send deputies to work directly in Portland. PPB is a terrific partner and I am very sympathetic to what they are enduring. However, the lack of political support for public safety, the uncertain legal landscape, the current volatility combined with intense scrutiny on use of force presents an unacceptable risk if deputies were deployed directly. Lastly, I support the steps outlined in the Joint Media Release by the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police, and remain committed to work with partners and community leaders towards peace and an end to violence.
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