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Samara Jones and Brianna Miller (left to right) attended an FBI press conference on Monday at Alberta Park in support of Makayla Maree Harris, who was 18 when she was shot and killed last year. The FBI is seeking information in this and six other homicides.
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 03 February 2022

Makayla Maree Harris was only 18 when she was killed in what was likely a gang-related shooting in downtown Portland last summer. She is not believed to have been the intended target, but rather someone who had the misfortune of simply being present at what quickly became a crime scene.

“Every day I think about it like, Makayla out of all people? The smallest one in the group?” her cousin, Brianna Miller, also 18, told The Skanner.

On Monday Miller joined Harris’s friend Samara Jones, 18, and Harris’s cousin Kyla Duncan, 19, to stand for Harris at a press conference hosted by the FBI’s Portland field office. On display behind them were seven posters, each displaying the name and image of a homicide victim whose case remains unsolved.

fbi press evelynFamily and friends gather to support the FBI's investigation into the shooting homicide of Evelin Navarro-Barajas, who was 23 when she was killed in June 2020.
Family and friends of Evelin Navarro-Barajas were also present. Navarro-Barajas was shot while talking with friends in a parking lot on Northeast Killingsworth Street on June 18, 2020. Investigators noticed that children were present as a vehicle pulled up and occupants began shooting.

The “wrong place, wrong time” narrative is common for these victims. During the press conference Kieran Ramsey, special agent in charge of the FBI's Portland field office, announced his agency would be offering an up to $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for an additional case: The shooting death of 53-year-old Kelley Marie Smith, who, with her husband, was making an UberEats delivery when she was shot and killed on Dec. 17, 2020.

Dhulfiqar Kareem Mseer, 23, was picking up an Uber fare in northeast Portland when multiple people fired dozens of rounds at his car the night of Dec. 11, 2020. Shell casings from the scene matched those found at other gang-related shootings nearby, according to the FBI.

The FBI is highlighting each of the seven cases by offering cash rewards of up to between $15,000 and $25,000 for tipsters.

“When we see shootings that are part of this cycle of retaliatory violence, if it meets a certain threshold in terms of what we believe to be connected to other shootings in the city – not necessarily the targets or the victims, but the shooters themselves or the weapons being used,” Ramsey told The Skanner, “then we’re leveraging our resources through the Metro Safe Streets Task Force, and then again in partnership with the (district attorney)’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Portland Police Bureau, then deciding ok, some of these cases, the tips and leads have totally dried up, we need to do something else.

Let’s see if we can offer a reward and generate some renewed interest, and perhaps some renewed information for the investigators.”

Fears of Retaliation

Authorities suspect that witnesses with valuable information likely fled the scene of Harris’s shooting. As with the other cases, they believe witnesses and those with more insight into the crime are too intimidated to come forward.

fbi press agentKieran Ramsey, special agent in charge of the FBI's Portland field office, and Sgt. Pete Simpson, public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau, encourage anyone with information on unsolved gun homicides to come forward during a press conference at Alberta Park on Monday. It is their hope that the offer of anonymity, financial motivation or both will encourage tipsters to offer information.

Ramsey explained that anonymity and rewards are not mutually exclusive.

“Our message today with this was the fact that if people are absolutely fearful for retaliation, retribution, first call in anonymously to Oregon Crime Stoppers,” Ramsey told The Skanner. “Provide that information, and say look, I have fears of retaliation, I maybe have more information or can provide more detailed information. Then we’ll set up a mechanism for them to have a conversation with an investigator, and if they want to still remain anonymous, that’s fine. If we can then transition that to where they can directly have a conversation with someone from Safe Streets Task Force, and their information is of value enough that it is going to lead to an arrest and conviction, again, we’ll talk to them separately, and make them sure that they’re aware of the higher reward through the FBI, and hopefully seek to pay that out through their closure of this case with whatever assistance they can provide.”

Crime Stoppers of Oregon is a community-based organization that offers rewards of up to $2,500 for information in unsolved felonies. But the group’s website does not require users to provide any identifying information.

“Any tip that you have, any piece of information you have – license plate, vehicle description, a nickname, a rumor – all of these can be submitted to Crime Stoppers anonymously and forwarded to the investigators for their review,” Sgt. Pete Simpson, public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau, said during the press conference.

Simpson added, “Crime Stoppers is truly anonymous. You go to www.crimestoppersoforegon.com, you can submit a tip online. You download the P3 app for your phone, you can submit a tip through your phone. Crime Stoppers does not gather any data, it does not gather any identifying information.

"We don’t know who you are.”

“But if you are fearful of retaliation, of retribution, because you have that piece of information, you can feel free to contact the Oregon Crime Stoppers, or the FBI directly,” Ramsey said.

“Tell us about those fears. Let us address them.

"Let us get your information, let us put that to good use to hold those people accountable that have taken all of these lives you see before you today, and know that we will make sure that you are safe in doing so.”

Lives Cut Short

“Those people that took these lives are still out there now,” Ramsey said. “If we hold them accountable, others are going to take notice.”

For the grieving, justice would at the very least be an acknowledgement that the lives cut so short were valuable.

Shortly after the press conference, Duncan, Jones and Miller described Harris as a lively young woman with her sights set on Texas for college and what she hoped would be a fun social scene.

Asked how her life had changed since Harris’s death, Duncan described how amid the constant sadness, she also felt bored without her near-daily companion.

“Happy spirit. That’s Makayla,” Jones said.

“Smile. That’s Makayla. Laughing. That’s Makayla.”

Looking for Answers

In total, the FBI has pledged more than $115,000 in reward money for information on these cases:

  • Curtis D. Smith, 25, of Fresno, Calif., shot in Farragut Park on Feb. 25, 2021 while visiting Oregon to attend a friend’s funeral
  • Makayla Maree Harris, 18, shot in the 300 block of Southwest Third Avenue between Harvey Milk and Washington Streets on July 17, 2021
  • Kelley Marie Smith, 53, shot near Dawson Park on Dec. 17, 2020
  • Dhulfiqar Kareem Mseer, 23, shot in the area of Northeast Stafford Street and Northeast 11 Avenue on Dec. 11, 2020
  • Anthony McNaughton, no age provided, shot in or near a tent near the intersection of Northeast Broadway and Northeast Glisan Street on Nov. 27, 2020
  • Evelin Navarro-Barajas, 23, shot in the 6700 block of Northeast Killingsworth Street on June 18, 2020
  • De’Annzello McDonald, 28, shot in the 600 block of Northeast 162nd Avenue on June 11, 2020

Photos and additional information can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info.

To contact the FBI directly, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit tips.fbi.gov. Only tips submitted directly to the FBI are eligible for FBI rewards.

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