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Ore. Officer Shot; Suspect Killed

A Portland police officer was wounded and a man lay dead after a sudden shootout Wednesday afternoon in a Southwest Portland neighborhood across from Wilson High School.

Witnesses and students from the school heard between five and six gunshots and then dozens of patrol cars racing to the Hillsdale scene, lights flashing and sirens whirring.

Paramedics led away a uniformed school resource officer, his hand bleeding, as homicide detectives arrived, followed by the mayor, Central Precinct's commander, a chief deputy district attorney, deputy city attorney, the police union president and later the police chief.

The officer-involved shooting was the first in Portland since last March.

The injury to the Officer John M. Romero, an eight-year bureau member who serves as school resource officer for Wilson High and its feeder schools, wasn't life-threatening and he was taken to OHSU Hospital for treatment, police said. He was released from the hospital between 7 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The suspect shot and killed by the officer collapsed on Southwest Cheltenham Street, his head in the street and his legs on the west sidewalk, witnesses said. Police found a gun beside him.

"There was an exchange of gunfire, and the officer was shot," Police Chief Mike Reese said. "Our officers were here to protect our kids. It's obviously shocking when an event like this happens near any school."

Romero was among a group of police from Central Precinct and the bureau's Youth Services division who had been conducting extra patrols in Southwest Portland on the lookout for a suspicious green van following schoolkids or approaching them and slowing down over the past few days. The Police Bureau distributed a flier at Central Precinct's roll call Wednesday morning on the van, with a license plate described as similar to the suspect vehicle's.

The chief said police don't know if the dead man is the suspect they were searching for in recent days.

The shootout unfolded as police responded to a call at 3:53 p.m. of a suspicious vehicle parked near the Hillsdale library branch on Southwest Dewitt Street.

Bryce Canda, 16, and his dad, John Canda, were walking back to their parked car on Southwest Cheltenham Street, after having lunch at the Hillsdale Subway. As they walked north on Cheltenham, they saw a man walking toward them, followed by a uniformed Portland police officer who had turned the corner from Southwest Dewitt Street onto Cheltenham.

 The officer was yelling at the man, described as in his 30s, to stop and take his hands out of his pockets, the younger Canda said.

The man sat down on what looked like a bench or concrete ledge outside a martial arts gym and "still had his hands in his pocket, " Bryce Canda said.

"The man stood back up and the officer fired at him" as the man appeared to take his hands out of his pocket and was holding something, Bryce Canda said. The man had a gun, he said.

The officer and the man were standing about 15 feet apart, he said.

"Me and my dad just ducked," he said, pointing to a parked car they crouched behind.

"I just didn't want to get hit with a bullet, " he said.

The teen said he heard five to six shots.

John Canda said he saw a uniformed officer appear about 15 to 20 feet behind the man and shout: "Stop right there, hold it right there!"

 "The man stopped and sat down on a retaining wall," near the Westside Academy of Kung Fu on the west side sidewalk, said the elder Canda, former head of the city's Office of Violence Prevention and a longtime gang outreach worker in Portland.

"The guy stood up and turned toward the officer, and that's when we saw the officer fire shots, " John Canda said. "We ducked behind a red car. We were right in the line of fire."

John Canda said he hadn't seen the man carrying anything until he saw him lying dead. A gun was beside his body, he said.

"The officer was still standing. He was functional,'' said John Canda. Canda said he didn't realize the officer had been shot until later. He said he couldn't tell who had fired the first shots. "It was instantaneous. It sound like it was all together.''

He said he heard the officer shout into his police radio, "Shots fired! Shots fired! Suspect down!'' and within seconds heard police sirens swarming the area.

Canda said he and his son and family were in the area because his father-in-law, who was at the nearby Hopewell hospice house, had passed away Wednesday morning. He and his son had just stepped away to grab something to eat, he said. John Canda said he has witnessed a gang-related shooting in the late 90s, "but my son has only heard the stories. I was worried about him.''

Bruce Margetich said he was at the corner of Dewitt and Cheltenham when he heard five gunshots.

"I didn't know what to do," Margetich said. He later saw an officer being walked away by paramedics, his arm bleeding, he said.

At the RE/MAX store at the corner of Cheltenham and Capitol Highway, sales representative Lynne Cohen said, "Everyone inside was saying, 'Lock the doors! Lock the doors!'"

Motorists stuck in traffic rolled down their windows to ask what was going on and seemed surprised to hear a shooting had occurred in what's typically a quiet neighborhood.

Wilson High students couldn't help but notice the chaotic scene and mob of police.

Ian Sloan and fellow Wilson High theater cast members were outside after school reading the script for "A Midsummer's Night Dream" when their acting teacher suddenly ran out and summoned them into the school.

The teacher was yelling, "Everyone inside! There's been an emergency!"

They were led to the drama room and locked the door. "It was pretty scary," Sloan said. "To have it happen right near you."

Wilson High varsity baseball players Perry Taylor and Alec MacDonald-Factor were at practice on the school field when they heard the shooting.

"We heard five gunshots ... it didn't register at first," Taylor said. "Then we heard police cars coming in from all over."

Chief Reese had been in Eugene attending his daughter's Wilson High volleyball playoffs game. The game had just ended when Reese was inundated with calls, texts and pages from the Police Bureau. He said he drove back to Portland to get to the scene, but not with his lights or siren on.

"Obviously, for me, one of the most important things I can do as chief is be here,'' Reese said. "These are very difficult events for all of us.''

Portland's last police shooting occurred March 4, 2013, when police fatally shot Santiago Cisneros III, who ambushed them atop a Lloyd District parking garage.

Copyright 2014 - The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.

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