Storefronts under siege—judge releases burglar

A burglar is recognized and arrested, but released the same day despite a past history of business burglary and failure to appear.

Across North Portland, storefront businesses have experienced a spate of break-ins and broken windows. Each incident can cost thousands of dollars in repairs, not to mention the value of items stolen. The St. Johns town center has been especially hard hit in recent weeks. 

There was a break-in at The Fixin’ To bar at 8218 N. Lombard. Then another break and enter occurred just down the street at Kung Food Chinese restaurant, 8071 N. Lombard. A large display window near the entrance was broken. The thief stole two electronic tablets. The broken window will likely cost hundreds to replace, plus labor.

Kung Food store with broken window covered with wood
Kung Food store with broken display window covered with wood

At ROM, a clothing and shoe store at 8621 N. Lombard, a shoplifter walked out of the store with several hundred dollars worth of inventory. A few weeks ago a man climbed onto a motorcycle at Sabatino Moto at 8501 N. Lombard and boldly tried to roll it out the door. An alert employee grabbed the motorcycle and held onto it before it could cross the threshold.

A recent break-in at Vinyl Resting Place at 8332 N. Lombard has especially galled the community. It occurred before dawn on Thursday, March 7. The front door glass was completely shattered and the cash register taken with several thousand dollars. The small record shop, owned by Steve Cook had to close down so the massive gap could be repaired. But before that could happen, the business was struck again on Sunday in the early morning hours by the same burglar. This time he smashed the two large front display windows and stole a laptop while destroying a number of records in the process.

Cook has literally been left to pick up the pieces with all three storefront windows destroyed within a few days. Besides the expense of replacing them, he’s lost open hours due to closing down for repairs and the need to appear in court.

When Cook reviewed surveillance video of the incidents, he recognized the burglar’s backpack and realized it was the same man in both incidents. In fact he’d seen the man inside his store. What’s more, only hours after the second break-in he spotted the man across the street. Cook called the police who arrested and took suspect, Duwayne Erickson, into custody.

However, the same day, a judge released Erickson on his own recognizance. That’s a release “without the requirement of posting bail, based on a written promise by the defendant to appear in court when required to do so.” Erickson was due for arraignment the next day, Monday, but failed to appear. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

According to information from Deputy District Attorney James Kim assigned to North Portland, this was not the first time Erickson had committed theft or failed to appear. He’d been booked for another burglary of a business in the past, and had also been a no-show for that arraignment. Rather than an arrest warrant, he was only “cited” in that case due to the less serious nature of the offense. The police never found him again until Sunday, after the call from Cook.

Why would a judge allow a suspect to go free on a promise when he’d failed to appear in the past? According to Deputy DA Kim, release is entirely up to the discretion of the judge. The DA’s office makes sure the judge has background information on the arrestee, so he would have been aware of Erickson’s past failure to appear. The release “may be due to lack of jail space or other issues,” Kim noted.

The manager of Kung Food commented, “When there are no consequences, people just repeat the same behavior.” The restaurant has been broken into so many times that wood to cover the broken windows is saved and reused.

The St. Johns Boosters and Venture Portland are working hard on behalf of the storefront business owners to require political leaders to enact a Reset Plan to curb crime and vandalism in North Portland. They have also asked that mental health and addiction counseling services be provided.

But there’s a hopeful side to the Vinyl Resting Place story. The North Portland community and fellow small business owners have rallied around the record shop and Cook. Customers have flocked in to pick out their favorite records. Lanie Jansheski, the owner of nearby Groovy Floret Cafe, started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the losses and the sudden expense of massive repairs.

Jansheski said, “As a neighbor and fellow business owner in the heart of St. Johns, I know how hard it is to stay afloat. Break-ins, vandalism and theft are more than a financial burden. It’s an emotional setback that makes the whole endeavor feel not worth it. This is how neighborhoods wither away and become nothing more than empty storefronts.”

If you want to help Vinyl Resting Place recover from the theft and broken windows go to GoFundMe.