PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A suspected gang member opened fire on a group outside an alternative high school Friday, sending three young people to the hospital, Portland police said.
The victims are students at Rosemary Anderson High School or in affiliated job training programs, police Sgt. Pete Simpson said. A 16-year-old girl was in critical condition, and two males — ages 17 and 20 — were in serious condition, police said. A fourth person — a 19-year-old woman — was grazed by a bullet but not hospitalized.
Witnesses told police there may have been a dispute outside the school before the shooting occurred at a street corner, but police said they didn't know who was involved.
"We don't know what led up to the shooting," Simpson said. "There was some kind of dispute."
The assailant and two other people fled, and the wounded students went to the school for help, he said.
A nearby high school and community college were put on lockdown.
Preliminary information suggests the shooter has gang ties, Simpson said. The Police Bureau's gang unit was deployed in the investigation.
"That may not have anything to do with the shooting," Simpson added. "The students may not at all be related to gangs. We don't want to leave that conclusion with anybody."
Sierra Smith, a 17-year-old student, told The Oregonian she saw one of the male victims being helped by a teacher inside the school.
"He was laying on the ground. He had blood coming out of his stomach," she said. "It was scary."
Another student, Oliviann Danley, 16, told the newspaper she saw a boy run into the school and yell, "Oh my god, did I just get shot?"
Rosemary Anderson High School serves at-risk students who were expelled or dropped out, or who are homeless or single parents. According to the school's website, 190 students annually are enrolled at the north Portland location. The school also has a second location in Gresham.
Gang violence in Portland isn't a new phenomenon. Some of the violence occurs between rival gangs, but bystanders have also been hurt.
"We've made a lot of progress in addressing the gang problem, but we haven't eradicated it," Mayor Charlie Hales said. "Today's really a sad reminder that it's still with us."
Portland police have said they saw a spike in gang crime this summer and have complained they don't have adequate resources to address the problem. Recent violence includes a man killed in a drive-by-shooting in June and another man killed in a separate shooting. A 5-year-old boy also was shot in the leg while playing at an apartment complex.
A Multnomah County report on gang activity released in June said crime in the county that includes Portland actually decreased from 2005 to 2012. As inner-city Portland gentrifies, the report said, criminal activity is shifting from northern neighborhoods to areas farther east, including the city of Gresham.
The north Portland neighborhood where the shooting occurred exemplifies the trend. Before Friday, the place once known for gangs had not had a shooting with injuries in nearly four years.
"It brings up a lot of old wounds," Simpson said.
Dani Gonzales, 64, has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and said it's generally safe but there has always been some gang activity.
"Kids just get silly and get crazy ideas. I don't know what goes on in their heads," Gonzales said.
There was another school shooting in the Portland area in June, but it was not gang-related. A freshman killed another boy in a locker room and a bullet grazed a teacher before the shooter went into a bathroom and died from a self-inflicted gunshot, police said.