PORTLAND, Ore. – The father of an 11-year-old boy accused of trying to carjack a woman in a church parking lot said his son was running with the wrong crowd and he is trying to get his son on the right path.
KATU On Your Side Investigator Thom Jensen spoke exclusively to the father of the 11-year-old boy Monday night. The 11-year-old and another boy, 7, are accused of demanding a woman’s car, money and phone at gunpoint outside a Southeast Portland church over the weekend. That woman, Amy Garrett, refused.
Police later caught up with the boys and confronted them. Police said they found a loaded handgun in the pocket of the 11-year-old.
"My son said they had basically acquired the gun from a local troublemaker in the neighborhood," the father told KATU News.
He said it was the younger boy who had the gun and took off for the church parking lot.
"My son basically ran and tried to chase after him to try to get it back from him," the father said. "Once they got outside, apparently she was sitting outside, the younger kid had approached her and started making reference to the gun of some sort. ... My boy didn't actually realize what he was saying to her and he turned around and all he heard was 'show her the piece, show her the piece' and he said, 'Shut up, you're being stupid.'"
But police and Garrett told KATU while the 7-year-old said, 'Show her your piece,' it was in fact the older boy who flashed a gun in his waistband, saying he had a .22-caliber handgun cocked and ready to fire.
The victim also said the 11-year-old threatened her at one point saying he would "blow your head off."
Others in the neighborhood said Monday this isn't the first time the 11-year-old has caused mischief, recently throwing rocks at a business and harassing a woman for money.
"I've told him – said there's been a thing or two I've done in the past I'm not too proud of," said the 11-year-old boy's father.
The father, whom KATU is not identifying, has served time behind bars. He's been trying to educate his son, whom he says used to hang out with the wrong crowd, before it's too late.
"He's actively taking his own steps to get involved with church youth group," the father said.
The boy's father said he isn't dismissing how serious this is and is worried about what could happen legally. He said his son has a big heart and that he wrote a letter of apology to the church, saying his son knows what a big deal this is.
While the 11-year-old's father spoke to KATU, about two dozen neighbors met to discuss what should happen next.
Children have to be 12 years old to be placed in juvenile detention, and so the 7- and 11-year-old boys were turned back over to their parents this weekend. And that is very troubling to folks in the community who say they want action after several earlier run-ins with the 11-year-old boy.
"I've done this for 25 years, and I've never heard of anything like this before," said Portland Police Bureau Lt. Frank Gorgoni, who hoped his presence at the Centennial Community Association meeting could calm homeowners' concerns.
"Every officer knows where these kids live, the address of the houses, there's an extra patrol," he told the crowd.
What he heard, though, were new stories of neighbors' run-ins with the same 11-year-old accused in Saturday's attempted carjacking outside the Freedom Foursquare Church, including what Leslie Hendrix said happened when the boy stole her son's scooter.
"He actually came back a week later and kind of flashed a knife at my husband," she said.
Hendrix never called police to report what happened, which is something she now regrets with the two boys back at home and her own kids, also ages 7 and 11, sharing the same street.
"I might see him every day. Is he going to have another gun; is he going to have another knife? You never know," Hendrix said.
That's the hardest part for neighbors to accept, waiting for the legal process to play out.
"I would predict that there's going to be movement on all of this very soon," Gorgoni told neighbors.
Hendrix never imagined needing to have this kind of discussion with her kids.
"It's tough, especially for the 7-year-old. The 11-year-old understands, but the 7-year-old, I think, we'll have to do some more with her," she said.
While they all wait, Gorgoni advised the best thing neighbors can do is call police if the kids are out causing problems again.
"We need reports," he said. "We need not something that happened before, we need now."
There was a great contrast Monday night between neighbors' stories of their own encounters with the 11-year-old boy for threats or vandalism, and what the boy's father told KATU News.
It is important to note that while KATU was interviewing Garrett over the weekend, the 11-year-old walked right up to KATU’s camera crew, clearly frightening Garrett.
KATU News reporter Thom Jensen contributed to this report.