The weather was sweltering unusually hot for June in Portland and Samuel Fast Buffalo Horse just wanted to cool off and watch the sunset. So he drove with friends to a spot with a better view of the skyline: Northeast Portlands Broughton Beach on the southern bank of the Columbia River.
At first, it was a beautiful evening. But as the sun dipped low toward the rivers silver curve, a large fight broke out. The sound of a single gunshot tore through the twilight. Crowds on the busy beach scattered.
Fast Buffalo Horse, 27, had been shot dead in the sand in front of multiple witnesses.
What catalyzed an eruption of violence that ended with the fatal shooting of the Portland man at the popular beach spot on Northeast Marine Drive has been unclear, until now. Initial police reports described the incident as a fight between a large group of people, culminating in a gunshot. But witness accounts paint a picture of mob-like violence that began with an attack on Fast Buffalo Horses girlfriend, Cante Morgan.
Video taken by a bystander and later aired on television shows a large swarm of people shoving each other and arguing. Just seconds before the shooting, about six people can be seen kicking and punching a victim on the ground, later identified by police as Fast Buffalo Horse.
The shooter and several others fled the area after the gunfire, Portland police said. But multiple witnesses remained at the beach, including Morgan.
The person I love was dying in front of me and holding my hand, Morgan told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
A beachgoer with a background in medicine performed CPR on Fast Buffalo Horse until police arrived, Morgan said. Emergency responders also tried to save him, but the young father flatlined, lying in the spot where both he and Morgan had been assaulted.
It was like a mob mentality, she said of the fight.
Despite the large number of witnesses to the killing, Portland Police Bureau did not make any related arrests for more than six months. In early December, three people were indicted in the June 12 death of Fast Buffalo Horse.
Michael Annello Perkins, 17, is accused of second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and rioting, according to the Multnomah County District Attorneys office. Two men, 44-year-old Fernando Gonzales and his 19-year-old son, Tremayne Coleman, are also accused of rioting and third-degree assault.
Since the arrests, prosecutors and detectives have declined to comment about the case or to answer most questions from The Oregonian/OregonLive about the incident or the police investigation.
The indictments have brought little peace to loved ones who still mourn Fast Buffalo Horse. They say multiple other people were involved in the public assault, an account confirmed by the video. And Perkins, a juvenile, may face only eight years in custody if he is tried and convicted of murder in juvenile court.
The police and district attorney have only accounted for three of six or seven people who were involved, Morgan said. There is no true justice for this situation. We never get Sam back.
A FATHER, FRIEND MOURNED
Now, Fast Buffalo Horses daughter, 7, must grow up without a father. Her mother, 27-year-old MoNique Harvey of Portland, misses her first love and his parental support. Its a nightmare that doesnt feel real, she said.
And Morgan, who thought of Fast Buffalo Horse as her life partner, feels like he might walk up the stairs to their shared apartment at any moment. Sometimes, unthinking, she instinctively reaches for her phone to text him.
They still speak of Fast Buffalo Horse in present tense, recounting a 6-foot-5 friendly giant with a goofy, peaceful nature. They recall his devotion to his friends, how he always stood for justice, for what was right, and for his own freedom even at the expense of jobs or relationships, Harvey said.
Hes a very persistent, very justified person, Harvey said. He always stood for being a free spirit he was never tied down by anything.
She recalls how he held her as birthing contractions shook her body during a harried taxi ride from Gresham to Hillsboro. How he later clutched her hand, in total awe of their child at her birth.
Later, Fast Buffalo Horse met Morgan. He would often remind her of his motto: Simply be a good human and try to be good to one another.
Harvey and Morgan recall his struggle with deep depression, occasional substance use and his periodic homelessness, but how he had been pulling it together to care for his daughter and loved ones. How he was building a life with Morgan.
And how Morgan feels he had saved her life that day at the beach.
JUST A DRINK
It was just a drink, Morgan says.
She tossed it, in a rash moment, at a car she said was speeding toward her in the parking lot. A little tipsy, and intoxicated by a long, beautiful day of swimming and soaking in the sun, she didnt think the drink would hit.
But it flew through the drivers window and landed, sparking the violence that left Fast Buffalo Horse dead.
The Oregonian/OregonLive interviewed Morgan and Gustavo Montoya, who both accompanied Fast Buffalo Horse and Montoyas girlfriend to the beach and later testified as witnesses before a grand jury in the murder case. A detective and eight other people, presumably mostly eyewitnesses, also testified about what happened that evening.
The heat had attracted throngs to Broughton Beach, and when the two couples drove up, cars lined the lots, Morgan said. A large crowd had gathered.
It was a huge parking lot party, Morgan said
Montoya said their group of four had been at the beach for about 15 minutes just long enough for him to take a dip in the river when he heard a commotion in the parking lot.
Morgan, who had gone back to the parking lot with Montoyas girlfriend, had thrown her drink at the speeding car, she said. It screeched to halt when the drink hit, and a group of people began yelling and chasing the two women, who ran down a trail toward where Fast Buffalo Horse and Montoya were on the beach, Morgan said.
Montoya said he rushed to get his girlfriend away from a group of women attacking her and Morgan and lost track of Fast Buffalo Horse.
I look up and see the girls trying to get away and getting swarmed, Montoya said.
Morgan remembers being hit, kicked and shoved to the ground by a large group of girls and young women, when Fast Buffalo Horse ran up the beach and intervened.
He was just trying to help me get away from all these girls, Morgan said.
But he was quickly surrounded by a large group of men, she said, who pushed him down the beach and surrounded him, pummeling him with kicks and punches. In the video footage, a stream of people can be seen running from a trail above to join the fray surrounding Fast Buffalo Horse.
I was running trying to help him get on his feet because he was on the ground, Morgan said. She tried with her body to block the punches and kicks raining down on her boyfriend, but someone picked her up and threw her to the ground, knocking the wind out of her, she said.
Thats when Morgan heard the shot. At first, she thought someone had fired it to scatter the attackers. But Fast Buffalo Horse was lying in the sand, bleeding from a wound to his abdomen.
Just the day before, Fast Buffalo Horse had watched his daughter graduate from her Portland kindergarten school, Harvey said. It was a happy moment between the three Morgan, Fast Buffalo Horse and Harvey. What co-parenting should feel like, Harvey said.
Samuel Fast Buffalo Horse (left) celebrates his daughter's graduation from kindergarten on June 11, 2019 -- the day before he was killed. (Courtesy of MoNique Harvey)
NEW LAW COULD REDUCE SENTENCE
Prosecutors allege that Perkins, Coleman and Gonzales are three of the men who surrounded Fast Buffalo Horse and that Perkins used a firearm, court documents show. The three have all been charged with rioting, meaning that each participated with five or more other people in the incident, including each other. That means at least three people who were involved in the attack have not yet been charged.
Portland police confirmed Monday that the investigation is still active.
Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Fernando Gonzales, left, and Tremayne Coleman are pictured in Multnomah County booking photos. A photo of Michael Annello Perkins wasn't immediately available.
On Jan. 1, Oregons Measure 11 law stops automatically applying to juvenile defendants like Perkins who are charged with serious crimes. Prosecutions of defendants under 18 will now start in Juvenile Court. Prosecutors can argue to move suspects ages 15 to 17 to circuit court and treat them as adults.
A juvenile court judge makes the call, based on a variety of factors, including the defendants level of maturity and likelihood of rehabilitation.
Brent Weisberg, spokesman for the Multnomah County District Attorneys office, declined to say whether the DA will petition to move Perkins to circuit court.
The decision when considering whether to have a juveniles case prosecuted in circuit court will be made upon review of the facts of the case and other factors, including consulting with the victim and/or their family members, Weisberg said.
If moved to adult court and found guilty of murder, Perkins could face a presumptive life sentence but have the chance to seek parole in 15 years, earlier than the current law.
If Perkins stays in juvenile court and is convicted, he would not be held past his 25th birthday and could be released any time before then.
Perkins, who was on parole at the time of the shooting, has been in Oregon Youth Authority custody since November.
He was first committed to the youth facility in June of 2018 on charges of third-degree attempted assault, third-degree assault and second-degree attempted robbery, Oregon Youth Authority spokesman Benjamin Chambers said.
Members of Fast Buffalo Horses immediate family declined to comment for this story.
On the day of Fast Buffalo Horses death, Harvey was driving to Broughton Beach with her daughter when she was blocked at the entrance by a large police presence.
She turned around to drive home, not thinking much of it. Later, as an ambulance flew past her on the road, she wondered who was inside and if the person would be OK. She didnt yet know that Fast Buffalo Horse was likely the passenger.
Harvey met and fell in love with Fast Buffalo Horse as a 17-year-old during a summer school program. Their eight-year on-and-off relationship was rocky but deep, Harvey said. Her parents disapproved, and she would often run away from her home in Cornelius to be with him in Portland, couch-surfing in friends houses.
Photo courtesy of Fast Buffalo Horse's family
Samuel C. Fast Buffalo Horse and MoNique Harvey. Fast Buffalo Horse, 27, was a father. He was fatally shot after a large group of strangers attacked him at North Portland's Broughton Beach.
I just knew I wanted to be with him, so I didn't really care where we were as long as I was with him, she said.
At 19, she became pregnant and the couple moved into their first apartment. Fast Buffalo Horse worked as a wildland firefighter, shipping out remote places for long periods of time. He continued firefighting for the next five years, Harvey said. The couple eventually split in 2016.
Fast Buffalo Horse spent much of his childhood in Chiloquin, she said. The area is a hub for the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin tribes. He was a Klamath Modoc but also carried Blackfoot Sioux blood, Harvey said.
Harvey consoles herself that Fast Buffalo Horse was surrounded by good things as he died. His new love was there, holding his hand.
He was looking at good stuff medicine, Harvey said. Water is medicine, so he was laying by that, seeing the sunset, Harvey said.
The day after his death, Harvey returned to the beach. She stretched out in the sand and looked out toward the water and the horizon, trying to imagine what he might have seen as he died. Maybe he saw the sunset. Maybe something peaceful, she hopes.
-- Emily Goodykoontz; 503-221-6652; firstname.lastname@example.org; @SharkasaurusX
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