North Portland MAX Attack Renews Fear, Safety Worries

Dylan Rivera, Oregonian, June 13, 2008

An assault by five teenagers on a North Portland MAX train this week revived worries about mass transit safety since several high-profile incidents last winter.

Teenage boys and girls punched, used racial epithets and stole the purse of a 28-year-old Vancouver woman who was taking her first-ever MAX ride early Monday evening. The woman, who is white, had just had a conversation with the teens, who are African American and were harassing another woman, according to Portland police.

“It was completely traumatizing and absolutely horrifying for me,” said the Vancouver woman, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation. “It seemed like forever.”

The attack renewed calls for more security on the region’s light-rail system. And it raised warnings that the close of the school year this week could be the beginning of a summer of criminal activity by some teenagers.

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Police said they have arrested four youths ages 14 to 16 suspected in the Monday assault. A fifth teenager is still at large, and officials released security camera video of the incident in hopes that the public can help identify the thin, 5-foot-6 suspect wearing light-colored clothing and going by the name Adrian.

Police said the teens initially called the Vancouver woman racially derogatory names. Then, as the train approached a station at North Interstate Avenue and North Prescott Street, they started punching her, police said.

The woman said a boy stole her purse and ran from the train after it stopped. A mix of boys and girls repeatedly punched her, and some girls hit her with purses. She said she also was hit with a can of beer.

She said the attack escalated when the group turned on her while harassing another, older woman, who had asked the teens to tone down their act. There was no transit security on the train, she said.

“I did not intervene,” the Vancouver woman said, adding that she had tried to ignore them. “They got in my face.

“Finally, I just said, ‘I don’t care what color you are, if I want you out of my face, I’d tell you to get out of my face.’ “

That’s when the teens got physical. She said she tried to fight back but was punched and stepped on.

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