Protests following the shooting of a 21-year-old Black man by Clark County delegates continued for the second consecutive night on Friday as questions grew surrounding his death.
Hundreds of people gathered near where Kevin Peterson Jr was shot and killed the day before. Delegates approached him because they believed he may have sold drugs in the parking lot of a Vancouver suburban hotel, investigators said.
The exact circumstances of the shooting are still unknown. The Southwest Washington Independent Investigation Response Group, which is investigating the shooting, said Peterson had “produced”; a gun before the delegates fired it. However, earlier on Friday, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said Peterson shot the congressmen first. Investigators said they found a 40 mm Glock pistol near Peterson’s body.
Peterson was on the phone with his partner at the time he was shot, said his partner Olivia Selto. She said Peterson was running on the phone and then she heard several gunshots before the line went silent. She said she didn’t know what led to the deadly encounter.
Peterson is the father of an infant daughter. He grew up in Portland and attended high school in Vancouver. Most recently he lived in Camas.
Shooting took place near Bank of America along Highway 99 in Hazel Dell in unincorporated Clark County. Protest rallies gathered at the site on Friday night, standing opposite each other on the highway. The first group held a candlelight prayer session in memory of Peterson. The second, smaller group responded to calls to “stand up” against violence by “Portland antifa.” Tensions between people on both sides escalated into screaming matches at 8:45 pm. The police stay away.
Before the memorial service took place, a Black woman used a megaphone to tell everyone not to join the dissident crowd. About 40 people gathered in a semicircle and quietly placed lit candles on the ground. One cried.
Natalie Scott, of Vancouver, said: “I have a black brother and a black father and black friends, and I hate to see this happen to one of them. “And if this happens to them, this is exactly what I want people to do. Stand up for them. Or even me. “
Peterson’s relatives also went to the memorial, hugging each other as some cried. Crowds gathered near the ceremony had risen to around 300 at 8 p.m. One speaker encouraged everyone to continue attending the Black Lives Matter rallies to end police violence against Blacks.
“We need to be fair and we need equality,” said the organizer, “We need accountability and we need transparency from the police.”
After a moment of silence, activist Mac Smiff spoke to the crowd.
“I used to live in Vancouver, Washington when I was young,” Smiff said, “One of the reasons I moved back to Portland was because I have always felt a sense of purpose here. There was a time when I lived here before moving back to Portland when my husband and I had to change cars because traffic would pull me over every day. “
News of Peterson’s murder caught immediate attention and sparked a small outcry late Thursday, hours after he was shot dead. Police vehicles blocked protesters from approaching the shooting site. Protests against his murder continued throughout Friday.
After the organizers announced the plans for Friday night’s vigil, right-wing groups asked everyone on social media to stay alert. Patriot Prayer Foundation leader Joey Gibson is known for staging right-wing events that frequently lead to violent clashes in downtown Portland, warning “Portland antifa” could try Causing property damage and encouraging “flaunting force” in response.
“The people of Vancouver will not be disappointed,” said Gibson in a video posted to YouTube.
About two dozen people had gathered since the 7 p.m. ceremony. Many people wave the flag of President Donald Trump or support the police. Some protesters also gathered further. Seven people carrying rifles stood guard outside the Franz bakery about a block from the alert site.
Drivers honk their horns as they drive between two crowds; can’t say which side they support.
As of 8:30 pm, the officers have yet to come to the crowd police. After several cars speeded amid the protests, left-wing demonstrators blocked traffic near the site of the vigilance ceremony.
The vigilance organizers announced shortly after 9pm that they would be relocating the monument to a downtown Vancouver park. As the crowd began to leave the watch, a police car passed by and was met with loud screams.
Verbal clashes continued to erupt between several people and about 50 protesters standing in the parking lot of a nearby bar.
After a clash, pepper spray filled the air and everyone ran out of the parking lot. One man was helped after being sprayed in the face. “I couldn’t breathe,” he said after an objectionable doctor reddened his eyes.
While the scene was still tense, crowds from the previous vigil gathered in downtown Vancouver and paraded through town.
A witness to the shooting told The Oregonian / OregonLive late on Thursday that he was driving on Highway 99 as several police cars rushed into the bank parking lot. The man just wanted to be identified by his name, Dan, as he was concerned about backlash from the public.
He said there was a Negro man in the parking lot, “just around, looking worried.” The officers got up, got out of the car, pulled out their guns, and quickly fired.
“And suddenly we started hearing ‘pop pop pop pop pop’,” he said. “We don’t understand how quickly it happened.”
He said the man shot “looked really scared” when the police arrived and appeared to have his hand in his pocket. The photography, he said, was almost “instantaneous”.
Beth Nakamura, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, Noelle Crombie and Samantha Swindler of The Oregonian / OregonLive have contributed to this report and will be updated.
– Catalina Gaitan
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