Gun violence in Salem is catching the public’s attention, worrying some, and leaving police officials with few answers to share.
On Monday, Salem Police Chief Jerry Moore released a statement about the recent spate of shootings, noting that there has been "a great deal of speculation" and misinformation circulating.
He said the department has been asked if they’re gang-related.
“Whether or not they are gang-related does not change our investigations. We don’t conduct our investigations based on labels of individuals; we conduct our investigations based on the behavior and actions of those involved. Gang involvement can be a contributing factor, but usually motives for committing these crimes vary incident to incident, and we may not know until the investigation is complete,” he wrote.
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Moore said during his career that have been occasions where there are multiple acts of violence during a short period of time and “most often it is one or two individuals involved, and once they are in custody those shootings stop. That is our goal in this case.”
In the last month, there have been eight shootings in Salem, resulting in the death of two and injury of five.
Police have been tight lipped about the cases, not always identifying the victims and making no comment on whether the cases are linked.
“Were continuing to look and see if there’s any connections,” said Marion County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Landers. “At this point we have no reason to believe that the shootings were random.”
Landers said the sheriff’s office, Salem Police Department and Woodburn Police Department are conferring to look for leads that might show connections between the crimes.
Salem City Councilor Chris Hoy, who represents east Salem, said residents in his district have questions about the recent shootings and are concerned especially with gun violence nationally.
“I think people are nervous and these shootings tend to be cyclical it seems, locally,” Hoy said.
Moore didn’t respond to calls seeking comment, City Manager Steve Powers couldn’t be reached because he is on vacation and Mayor Chuck Bennett was “unavailable” to discuss the violence, according to city staff.
The recent string started Wednesday, July 10, when a man collapsed with a gunshot wound around 9:30 p.m. at the McDonald’s on 1598 Hawthorne Ave.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 17: A man was shot at Northeast 25th Street and Claxter Road. Hector Martinez-Bedolla, 24, was subsequently arrested on charges of attempting to commit murder, second-degree assault, unlawful weapon use, unlawful firearm possession and methamphetamine possession in connection with the shooting.
SUNDAY, AUG. 4: Early in the morning, Ishaq Saleem, 16, was shot and killed in Englewood Park, in the 1300 block of Northeast 19th Street. No one has been charged with the Keizer teen’s murder.
SUNDAY, AUG. 4: Three hours later, Francisco Torres Perez, 24, was shot and killed in a home in the 400 block of Northeast 22nd Street. Alberto Medina-Cortes, 43, has been charged in his death.
MONDAY, AUG. 5: Gunfire was reported around 1 a.m. in the 1500 block of Northeast Evergreen Avenue. Police found no victims.
MONDAY, AUG. 5: Three people were injured in what police said was a drive-by shooting around 10:12 p.m. Northeast. Police haven’t identified the victims or the extent of their injuries.
THURSDAY, AUG. 8: Police responded to reports of gunfire in a residential area behind a shopping mall on Northeast Clay Street. They found an empty car but no victims.
According to a Salem Reporter analysis, police responded to 74 calls about shots from June 30 to Aug. 8 in Salem.
On Sunday, a 21-year-old man was stabbed in the 3300 block of Hadley Street around 11 p.m. and taken to Salem Health with non-life threatening injuries.
When everyone was gearing up to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July, a man was stabbed in Riverfront Park. He told police he was watching a performance when he felt a sharp pain in his back and saw five people running away. He later told police he didn’t want to be a victim and he was not a snitch, according to a police report.
The violence is drawing increasing attention to Salem from Portland television stations and triggering worries locally on social media platforms, where information and rumors about local violence circulate quickly.
The recent surge comes just weeks after the Salem Police Department disbanded its gang team of two officers and one sergeant.
“At that time we did some reorganizing to better use our personnel and resources. We still have resources to address violent crime, they just don’t have the title of gang team,” said Lt. Debbie Aguilar, Salem police spokeswoman.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t have a gang division.
Landers said this is far from the worst level activity the Salem area has seen. He said 10 to 15 years ago, there was a perception of a lot more violence.
The data that police and sheriff’s offices provide to the state doesn’t specify “shooting” as an incident type. Depending on the circumstances, a shooting can be classified as an assault or attempted murder.
According to FBI crime statistics, there were 89 violent crimes reported by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in 2010 and 100 in 2017. In Salem, 497 reported violent crimes in 2010 and 642 in 2017.
Frank Pack, the chair of the Northgate Neighborhood Association, said he doesn’t like the recent shootings but thinks police are doing all they can.
He said he was living in Southern California the first time he heard of a drive-by shooting.
“That was a gang thing too. We will just have to do what we can and see what happens,” Pack said.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250 or [email protected]