Detectives seek new leads to solve 20-year-old cold case killing - KPTV - FOX 12

Detectives seek new leads to solve 20-year-old cold case killing in NE Portland

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Lonnie Gaston (KPTV) Lonnie Gaston (KPTV)
File images connected with 1997 cold case killing in northeast Portland. (KPTV) File images connected with 1997 cold case killing in northeast Portland. (KPTV)

He was killed in a drive-by shooting decades ago. The lone gunman got away and was never found.  

Detectives are now calling on the public to help them solve this 20-year-old mystery. 

On the night of May 19, 1997 investigators were called out to a northeast Portland duplex. The call came in as shots fired. 

No one was hurt, but a woman's car was riddled with bullet holes.

"Detectives investigated that scene thoroughly and didn't believe she had any enemies," said Cold Case Detective Meredith Hopper.

While that woman may not have been the target, detectives would soon learn Lonnie Gaston likely was. 

At the time, Gaston lived in the other unit of that duplex on Northeast 26th Avenue and that shooting was a hint of what was to come in the hours ahead.

"The next morning Mr. Gaston was standing outside of the duplex talking with a group of friends and a vehicle drove by slowly in front of the duplex, and then turned around and then drove by again and stopped in front of Mr. Gaston's duplex," said Hopper.

Investigators said Gaston told those friends he was with that he'd go figure out what the driver wanted.  

When he walked up to the car, the driver of that older-model blue Ford sedan opened fire and killed Gaston.  

It's possible, detectives say, he was targeted for his connections to a gang. Gaston was from California and went by the nickname SC, which stood for “south central.”  

Investigators said, however, there's no information to indicate he was involved with gangs while living in Portland.

"One thing we'd like to find out is why he was targeted," said Hopper. "We've received information throughout years about the case, but one thing we were never told is exactly who was angry with him, or who would want to target him for this crime."

Witnesses came forward after the shooting describing what they saw, but detectives said none of that information led to the killer. 

They are now hoping to zero in on a motive for the murder to fill in some of the cracks of this 20- year-old case.  

Gaston's face is now one of 25 featured on cold case billboards across town, hoping to compel someone with information about what happened to come forward.

"One of the challenges we have with these cases is there's not forensic evidence, it's not an up close and personal crime that we deal with in other cases, it's challenging and we rely on the community to come forward and tell us what's happened," said Hopper. 

Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in any unsolved homicide and tipsters can remain anonymous. Information about any unsolved homicide is eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,500.

Information learned from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube should be shared as these tips may lead to the identification of a suspect or suspects. Links can be shared anonymously through Crime Stoppers.

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