Memorial honoring Normandale Park shooting victim bringing crime and violence, neighbors say

Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 5:21 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - More than one year after a mass shooting injured four and killed one person at Normandale Park in Northeast Portland, neighbors who live around the park said the violence has not gone away.

FOX 12 spoke to three neighbors who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation. They pointed to a memorial at the park for the shooting victim, June Knightly, as the source for a lot of crime that has increased over the last year. It sits on city property on the corner of Northeast 52nd Avenue and Northeast Hassalo Street. A spokesperson for Portland Parks and Recreation said the memorial is not on their maintained land. Regardless of which city bureau operates the land, all three neighbors said it’s not attracting love and remembrance like it’s supposed to.

“So when they first put up that memorial, I wanted to respect it and honor somebody,” One neighbor said. “But it’s been nothing but a hate magnet since then.”

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The second neighbor said he was assaulted the night before the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting by the memorial. On Feb. 18, he was walking his dog nearby when he saw two men spray-painting the ground. He went up and asked the men what they were doing and why they were graffitiing the ground. There was a brief conversation but it quickly turned into an assault. One man punched the neighbor in the, knocking him to the ground. The neighbor went to the emergency room with dark purple bruises around his eyes and a bump on his head the size of a golf ball.

“I came back the next day about what they were spray painting that was so important to them,” The second neighbor said. “It said Antifa. What have they done positively for their neighbors and for their people?”

It’s not just this incident that has people who live around Normandale Park concerned. All three people FOX 12 spoke with said since the mass shooting, they regularly hear new gunshots, they see people walking around the park with guns, cars intentionally block roads around the memorial, and graffiti has popped up around the park. The third neighbor we spoke with says she is frightened to go outside at night.

“I’m frustrated as a new homeowner because it feels like I’m the only one who has to play by the rule,” The third neighbor said. “It feels like everybody else gets to do whatever they want. But if you’re a homeowner and if you’re paying taxes, you’re punished and exploited for money.”

When the suspect in the mass shooting, Benjamin Smith, pled guilty, neighbors hoped the crime and violence would calm down. But it hasn’t.

“They had their justice over it. We can still feel for them,” The first neighbor said. “Why are they using our neighborhood and holding us hostage so they can spread their anger and their hate? It’s just ridiculous.”

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According to Portland Parks and Recreation policy, memorials can stay in place temporarily if they do not impact public safety, property, access, or permitted events. Neighbors believe this memorial is impacting their safety. But since Portland Parks and Recreation said it’s not on their land, it’s unclear what city bureau can help. FOX 12 did reach out to the Portland Bureau of Transportation since the memorial is next to a city road, but we didn’t hear back.

The three neighbors said they do want a memorial to honor the life of June Knightly. But they want one that brings positive energy and peace, not hate and anger.

“I would love to see something like a fruit tree, a bench, or something,” The third neighbor said. “If we’re going to do something long-lasting it would be something that contributes.”