Around 8 o’clock on Saturday evening, I clipped on Kieran’s leash and went walking after a day of writing. I love these long, June days. A breeze along with the setting sun felt good after the sultry heat, but about 8 blocks west of my house, police vehicles and yellow crime scene tape blocked the street. Lots of people were out enjoying the balmy evening, but no one knew what was happening. The police weren’t telling. Kieran and I cut over to the next block, and the next, but the police had blocked off the whole area all the way to Wellington Park. Cops stood around, leaning against their cars. They looked bored.
A guy in the park was checking all the news sites on his iPhone. He said KOIN Channel 6 reported that homicide detectives were investigating the whole area. I decided to turn around and head back home.
I was sitting on my bed, reading, my bedroom window open, when the pop-pop-pop of what sounded like several gunshots went off. It could have been gunfire… but it also sounded just like tear gas being shot at our apartments in Isla Vista—not a noise I will ever forget.
Sunday morning, I combed the Internet for news. The police actually had deployed enough tear gas into someone’s house to necessitate evacuation of several nearby residents. There was no explanation, just reassurance that no shots were fired, just tear gas–WTF? Talk about deja vu. Isla Vista was a peaceful, sleepy college town when I moved in, and Portland’s Roseway neighborhood has been quiet for the thirteen years I’ve lived here. It’s full of kids on bikes, skateboards, and scooters, playing ball in the street. There’s a basketball hoop on just about every block. I love it here.
I decided to see if the streets were still closed. They were, but Mason, the street with Wellington Park, was now open to the west. Kieran needed a good walk, so we walked out to Cully the way I had intended the night before and took Cully north to Skidmore and circled back up through the park to Mason. A guy with blue hair and a camera was talking to one of the police officers.
I decided to try and get a shot of the “command vehicle” on 66th and Failing street before I went home, and ran into the guy with blue hair again. He asked about my dog (Kieran’s a schipperke), and we got to talking. He’s Mike BlueHair of Film the Police, a police accountability organization.
The police still weren’t giving any answers other than that a woman was missing under suspicious circumstances, whatever that meant, but the homicide detectives and the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) were involved, and the fact was that they had closed off an area of several blocks, had a command vehicle, and had requisitioned an empty Trimet bus, where they put the tear gas evacuees.
I went home and wrote some more. Sunday night was quiet. Today, Monday, my daughter texted me that The Oregonian had an article online about the doings in my neighborhood. Holy shit! It looked like they had done some serious damage to the house in question. The owner of the house, Gary Lewis, and a woman tenant, Renee Sandidge, who lived in a basement apartment are missing. They had been having a long, ongoing dispute. It sounds like the police thought Lewis was holed up in the house, so they used tear gas to make him come out. But nobody was there. During the investigation, the police somehow managed to wreck the house and utterly destroy the travel trailer in the driveway. I grabbed my camera and ran down there to take photos. I figured the street would be closed, so I had my telephoto lens so I could photograph the house from a distance, but there was no need. Media people were all over the place, and I joined them. The house was a mess, and we still don’t know what happened, but for a little while, I felt like it was 44 years ago in Isla Vista.