Tensions boiled down to unrest late Friday after a surveillance of a black man who was shot and killed by police in a town near Portland, Oregon, in southwestern Washington state.
Grieving gathered in Hazel Dell, an unincorporated area of Vancouver, Washington, where family and friends say Kevin E Peterson Jr., 21, was shot Thursday night. The city is located approx. 12 miles north of Portland.
Hundreds gathered, some holding signs that read, “Honk for Black lives. White silence is violence ”and“ Scream his name ”.
Nearby tensions flared between left-wing and right-wing protesters. Video recorded by journalists in a parking lot showed two groups of people shouting at each other. Some armed protesters gathered near a building that they told reporters they were protecting.
Crowds eventually jumped close to vigilantes, but hundreds of protesters later marched through downtown Vancouver. Windows were smashed, flags were burned, and federal agents in riot gear surrounded a building ̵
Several videos showed two vehicles facing each other just after midnight on a street in the center. Two shots were heard, but reporters said it did not appear anyone was hit.
Authorities declared an illegal assembly and ordered protesters to disperse. At least one person appeared to have been detained, according to a video posted online by a journalist.
Family and friends described Peterson as a former high school football player and the proud father of an infant daughter. In a statement, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said a joint city county drug force was conducting an investigation just before 6pm on Thursday and chasing a man into the parking lot of a bank where he fired a gun at them. A firearm was retrieved on the spot, Atkins said.
Authorities did not name the person who was shot, but Kevin E Peterson Sr. told Oregonian / Oregon Live that the person was his son, Kevin E Peterson Jr. Atkins referred to the Peterson family in his remarks, but did not confirm that Peterson was the person killed.
“I can say that our agency mourns, as do the Peterson family and the community,” Atkins said. “When society mourns, I call for a respectful and dignified observance of the loss of human life in this matter. There is always the potential for misinformation, doubt and confusion – and there may be those who want to sow the seeds of doubt. ”
The investigation is being referred to the Southwest Washington Independent Investigation Team, and the Camas police department is taking the lead, Atkins said.
Investigators said Friday night that the narcotics task force had contacted a man suspected of selling illegal drugs in a motel parking lot and that he fled on foot with officers there. The man produced a gun and officers backed up, investigators said. A short time later, the man encountered three Clark county assessors, all of whom fired their guns at the man, they added. They did not say the man fired a gun that was found at the scene, making it unclear what happened just before the shooting.
The community is a short drive north across the Columbia River from Portland, where protests over racial justice have been playing out almost every night since George Floyd’s killing of Minneapolis police in May. Southwest Washington is also home to the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, which has held demonstrations for Donald Trump in Portland in recent months that ended in violence.
In the past, several have respected Peterson at the scene of the shooting. Mac Smiff, an organizer of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, said he knew Peterson’s sister and spent more than five hours on the spot.
“There was a lot of grief, a lot of grief. He is 21 and has a baby, an infant, ”Smiff said. “They are not sure what happened, why the meeting took place. Everyone was extremely vague and confused. ”
Jake Thompson, an acquaintance of Peterson’s from high school, said he took pictures at the wedding of Peterson’s parents in Portland in 2018. On Friday, he posted a black-and-white picture of Peterson in a suit and tie as he blinked a big laugh. .
“I did not sleep much last night,” he said.
Peterson played football at Union High School in Vancouver, Washington, loved sports of all kinds and was a great personality known and liked by everyone in the school, Thompson said.