BikePortland contributor injured in shooting at Mississippi St Fair

Jessie Kwak (Images from her Instagram account)

“I want to show you the real person behind the statistic.”

– Jessie Kwak, via Instagram

A local author and contributor to BikePortland was caught in the crossfire of suspected gang violence at a street fair last Saturday and sustained a very serious eye injury.

Jessie Kwak, author of several science fiction books including a piece in Bikes in Space (Microcosm Publishing, 2018), and a freelancer who wrote a profile of Showers Pass for us back in December, was leaving the Mississippi Street Fair in north Portland when the incident occurred. Kwak had just loaded up her car with books from a full day of tabling at the fair and was in her car when gunshots rang out as she and a friend approached the intersection of North Kirby and Failing just after 8:00 pm. A bullet entered the vehicle Kwak was in, and fragments from the shattered glass and bullet entered her left eye.

In a video posted to her Instagram account Wednesday night, Kwak said she’s feeling “great” physically and “surprisingly good” mentally, but added that, “It’s unlikely that I will ever see fully out of this eye again.” Kwak is awaiting another surgery to repair her eye later today.

According to Kwak’s partner, the alleged gang members were in a car and shot at someone on the street nearby. They assume the bullet ricocheted off the pavement. Another person who was stabbed in this incident, and who police suspect was connected to the shooters, has not been found.

Since Kwak won’t be able to write during her recovery, she has set up a GoFundMe to support her in the coming months.

“I have been watching as gun violence has been increasing in our country, and in retrospect, I know that I am very very lucky. Many families don’t get a second chance to hug their loved ones tight,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page. “I want to take this opportunity to show you the real person behind the statistic, and that this was not a freak accident, but the result of a systemic issue we are facing here in the United States.”

Kwak also injected a bit of humor into this very serious chapter of her life. “I’m also looking forward to being a pirate writer. I’ve already ordered some eye patches.” When I asked if she said pirate “writer” or “rider” she replied, “Little bit of both.”

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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jakeco969
jakeco969
10 months ago

Simply terrifying! There is no place in civilized society for the behavior of the shooters.

Question for Jonathan, did you mean the gun entered her vehicle metaphorically or did someone put a gun in the car through a window?

 A gun entered the vehicle Kwak was in, and fragments from the shattered glass and bullet entered her left eye.

PS
PS
10 months ago

It used to not be like this, yes 2023 is an improvement over 2022, but shootings are almost 3x 2019.

https://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/81203

It’s like something happened in Mid-2020 that could pertain to this, oh wait,

https://www.wweek.com/news/2020/06/09/mayor-ted-wheeler-agrees-to-disband-the-portland-police-bureaus-gun-violence-reduction-team/

EP
EP
9 months ago
Reply to  PS

The number of guns in this country has been accelerating for the past few decades. How Many Guns Are in the U.S.? (thetrace.org)

Regardless of what happened with the GVRT, there are an even greater of guns in 2023, then there were in 2020.

In 2020, gun sales surged to the highest level in a decade, with nearly 9 million more sales than the previous year. This impressive increase of 64% marked the largest annual rise in two decades.”
Gun Sales in the U.S. 2023 | SafeHome.org

Guns are now like cars; there are fancy new powerful guns and junky old guns, they’re everywhere, and anybody can use them to kill. With the current excess of guns in this country, just about everyone that wants one, can get one, and that is completely terrifying.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  EP

There were lots and lots of guns sloshing around in 2019 as well, even if sales have increased nationally. The “violence climate” has definitely shifted.

PS
PS
9 months ago
Reply to  EP

Ah, that must explain why shootings in Hazelwood happen 6500% more frequently than Sellwood, or Powellhurst-Gilbert at 8500% more than Eastmoreland. They must have just been buying A LOT of guns in those neighborhoods, there can’t be another explanation.

PTB
PTB
10 months ago

Guns have no place in modern society. At all. There is no reasonable “But I need a gun…” counter argument in my mind. I hope Jessie heals well and quickly.

jakeco969
jakeco969
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Do you mean US society or worldwide society. I ask as many Eastern European society’s as well as many African society’s are clamoring for more guns for protection while Switzerland has an admiral record of owning guns without the subsequent constant shootings afflicting the modern US.

https://www.businessinsider.com/switzerland-gun-laws-rates-of-gun-deaths-2018-2

I too hope Jessie heals well and continues her sci fi endeavors!

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  jakeco969

Hi Jake, but Switzerland historically has had a much higher rate of gun deaths and suicides than its non-gun-owning neighboring countries.

Also, Switzerland has universal military service for men, they are each issued a rifle and go through weeks of compulsory military training every year, for years.

The men used to keep their rifles at home, but I think that has changed over the last few years so that now they are kept in armories.

Fun fact, I don’t know if it is still true, it may be, but neutral Switzerland has the largest standing army in Europe.

jakeco969
jakeco969
9 months ago

Hi Lisa,
I am a big believer that there should be universal military service here in the states along the model of Switzerland, Israel and many other countries. It would give young adults a focus, educate on proper handling of weapons, provide a common basis of citizenship, be a great introduction to the multi-culturalism that is such a great strength of our country and more importantly de-mystify guns, military and violence.
I don’t mean to gloss over the increased firearm suicide as that is an ongoing concern in the veteran community as well. Firearms were an essential part of daily life and can be comforting, but they can also make a moment of deep despair or pain a terrible tragedy.
I remember the magazine articles showing the Swiss men keeping full auto rifles and ammo in their closets just waiting for an invasion that never seems to come. Turns out that peace through strength is an actual thing.
I also remember high school and kids literally having rifles in their vehicles as well as carrying them around campus to shop class to work on them. The guns themselves aren’t the problem, something else is going on.

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

About 50,000 gun deaths in the US vs. hardly any elsewhere….
What exactly do you think the cause is BESIDES guns?
Do you think there are no mentally unstable or violent people in the other 90 or so countries?
Can you point to any other civilized country that even comes remotely close to the US?
It becomes kind of pointless to argue with gun people if they won’t accept basic facts and numbers…..
Most of the civilized world thinks America is full of gun crazed nuts and they aren’t wrong.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

“What exactly do you think the cause is BESIDES guns?”

Culture.

Cyclekrieg
9 months ago

Lisa you are very wrong on several points.

Almost all of Switerland’s neighbors allow personal ownership of firearms. In fact, both in Germany and Slovenia you can own almost all of the firearms you can in the USA with permit to purchase and secondary permits for military firearms for non-military members. Slovenia, in fact, has far looser gun laws than Switerland’s with only a permit to purchase. Germany requires permit to purchase and individual firearms titles. France, Italy and Austria are all so weird, it’s an entire book describing their gun laws, but basically, they are all similar: within certain types, just permit to purchase, for other types, it requires more paperwork. Though, Switerland is the only one of the bunch that has something similar to the Second Amendment. (SR 514.541 – “Das Recht auf Waffenerwerb, Waffenbesitz und Waffentragen ist im Rahmen dieses Gesetzes gewährleistet.”)

Swiss service members, both male and female, are required to keep their service rifle (SIG 550; a dreaded “AR style” firearm) at home, though they must store the bolt/bolt carrier (they are one item made of 2 pieces in modern firearms) separate from the rifle while at home. The exception to that is if they live in an apartment building, in which case it stored in the town armory/police station. (Fun fact: this is almost exactly how firearms ownership worked in Colonial America. The battles of Lexington and Concord that started the Revolutionary War, where the attempt to seize private firearms, most of which were stored in the towns’ respective armories.)

Lastly, Switzerland’s firearms deaths (crime and suicide) are typical of Europe and lower than some of its neighbors. France: 3.24/100k, Austria: 2.65/100k, Germany: 1.22/100k, Italy: 1.35/100k, Slovenia: 1.70/100k, Switzerland: 2.52/100k.

Facts matter. Guns are tool, albeit a dangerous tool that requires knowledge and responsibility to use. Fun tool, yes, needed tool, for some of us, definitely.

The bigger issue is that each side in this debate has dogmas that aren’t factual. For those on the right, it’s that any seeming inconvenience (like, for instance, permit to purchase) is an infringement. For those on left, it’s the belief that firearms are violence totems that somehow make everyone raging barbarians. If we could cut though those dogmas, we likely will end up with laws much like Switzerland’s.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

Boy I pushed your buttons! I didn’t think I entered a debate, or espoused any dogma. Just off the top of my head sharing some things I know about Switzerland. It’s an interesting country militarily and, because of its neutrality, Americans are surprised by how important the military is culturally. (Although that is probably lessening.)

I’ll ‘fess up to not being up-to-date, but I don’t think I’m that off. It’s interesting to look at suicide-by-gun rates, and those numbers might make for more meaningful apples to oranges comparisons between countries. Switzerland has a high gun-suicide rate compared to its neighbors, as do other high gun-owning countries like the US and Austria.

Regarding armories, CH stands out among countries for its low rate of home ownership. Most people rent, and if you live in a city that most likely means an apartment building. (Only 15% of the residents of Basel own where they live.) That’s a lot of city guns in armories.

Which leads me to a hypothesis. My bet/guess is that suicide by gun in CH tends to unfortunately happen among countryside dwellers. (NYC always had a very low suicide rate and the gallows humor was that nobody wanted to give their enemy the satisfaction of having outlived them.)

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Switzerland has an admiral record of owning guns without the subsequent constant shootings afflicting the modern US.

So does Vermont.

Fred
Fred
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

So do the US Navy and US Coast Guard.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Horatio Nelson would have appreciated your comment. 🙂

jakeco969
jakeco969
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

LOL
I didn’t understand the naval references till I reread my post. Whoops:-)

PTB
PTB
9 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Considering our uniquely horrific distinction of far surpassing all other Western nations in the gun violence category, I’m cool with just saying the US at the moment. But I don’t see why anyone in Switzerland needs a gun.

jakeco969
jakeco969
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

So they can stay Swiss and not be conquered by some other country?

PS
PS
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

As long as there are people willing to enter someone else’s private property without invitation, there is a reason for firearms in modern society. Interestingly, there are hundreds of millions of guns in hundreds of millions of homes for this exact reason, any yet this is not who uses guns the way described in the article.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  PS

I am curious if there are any statistics detemining what percentage of civilian-owned guns are actually used against another person.

PS
PS
9 months ago

Just going off estimates of 330MM+ guns in the US, with 50,000 gun deaths a year, many of those in concentrated geographies or suicide, it is probably a very very small number.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  PS

As long as there are people willing to enter someone else’s private
property without invitation, there is a reason for firearms in modern
society.

Perhaps you should try locking your door before turning to tools specifically designed to kill your neighbors.

PS
PS
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Anyone that even makes me think of a firearm near my home is not a neighbor.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  PS

Keeping a firearm in a home makes it more likely that someone who lives in that home will commit suicide or will unintentionally kill someone else. The majority of gun homicides are suicide.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Are you willing to change your mind?

PTB
PTB
9 months ago

No, I hope Jessie has a speedy recovery. A wise guy, eh?

But for real, No. I’m firmly of the mind that guns do not make us a better or safer society.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Going back to your original statement:

Guns have no place in modern society. At all. There is no reasonable “But I need a gun…” counter argument in my mind.

Whether or not guns have a place in society is mooted by the fact that there are guns everywhere.

Given that, can you see why some people might legitimately feel the need to have one to defend themselves against someone else with a gun? Even if you disagree with their assessment, do you really think that given where we are, the self-defense argument is so completely unreasonable that it should be disregarded?

I agree that we’d all be better off without guns, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.

PTB
PTB
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I feel like you’re asking me to change my mind because there are now so many guns everywhere we look. “There are SO MANY guns you can kinda see why someone feels the need to own a gun tho, right?” is what I’m getting from your comment. I’m not budging here. Guns have not made us safer.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  PTB

I’m not asking you to change your mind on whether guns have made us safer; I agree they have not.

But you really feel that even in a community awash with guns it is totally unreasonable for person to see the need for one themselves, and it is better for them to remain at the mercy of the more predatory elements in their community, who often are armed?

If that’s how you feel, I think your position reflects a lack of empathy for people living with much less physical security than you (and I) enjoy. We can afford to play the odds, but not everyone can.

Matt S.
Matt S.
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I own a gun because so many other people do. And, I live in east Portland. When the zombie van parks in front of my house and I go out there and bang on the hood telling them they need to leave, you bet I have it in my pocket. It’s unfortunat…

Mark in NoPo
Mark in NoPo
9 months ago

I admire her bravery in sharing her experience, including photos of the terrible injury. Godspeed with your recovery, Jessie.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago

Poor woman. I hope the catch the perp.

Randi J
Randi J
9 months ago

So sorry to hear this. Portland has had a much larger increase in gun violence than comparable cities. Very unfortunate. I hope we can decide as a city it’s not okay. (Jonathan probably won’t publish this comment as he is sympathetic to the “it’s like this everywhere” minimization frequently espoused here in the troubled city of Portland).

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

LOL, Portland is not in the top 50 for murder rates… Dayton Ohio, Birmingham Alabama, HUGE cities like those have a far higher murder rates.The increase in murder is only average for US cities.
I am not defending our police or the city at all but you need to get real, Pdxreal.

Randi J
Randi J
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

Let’s not try to minimize the horrific increase in shootings and murders here in Portland. Never stated the murder rate was higher here but the increase is what has topped other comparable cities. And very tragic for our Black community is the vast majority of those shot and killed have been young Black men. And most of the murders remain unsolved. Take a look at this deep dive on the issue.

“When compared relative to five “peer comparison cities” — Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver and Nashville — the report found that Portland had the largest increase in its homicide rate, at 207%. Minneapolis was next highest at 104%, and the third highest was Atlanta at 54%.”

https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2022/2022-pdx-problem-analysis-public-version.pdf

blumdrew
9 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

Right, and Portland is still below the per 100,000 numbers in Minneapolis, Nashville, and Atlanta (while being tied with Denver). It’s not like things are perfect here, but the 207% increase looks really bad in no small part because the rate of homicides was very very low in Portland in the pre-2020 world.

Randi J
Randi J
9 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

So a 207% increase is okay because there are more murders/per resident elsewhere? I sincerely don’t understand why minimizing our gun violence increase seems so important to many Portlanders.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
9 months ago

The police know who the gang members are in Portland, 100%. But they refuse to do anything because they hate the people of Portland, and they want to show us we need to “vote differently”

PPB is allowing a small percentage of horrible people hold our town hostage because they want to make us suffer for hurting their feelings 3 years ago.

Hey PPB – just pretend these gang members are out protesting you if you need motivation to act. We’ve all seen how fast you can mobilize against people that protest the police.

Do f@cling something, anything… and I don’t mean against the people calling you out to do you job we pay you for, I mean go after the criminals!!

Serenity
Serenity
9 months ago

How horrible!

Fred
Fred
9 months ago

It’s important to remember that the gun used in this case – as in every other case – was needed for self-defense, or so says the Supreme Court.

PeeWee
PeeWee
9 months ago

Don’t forget why you’ve got young men shooting at each other to begin with. Decades of political policies that decimated communities and destroyed the family unit. Not pointing any fingers. And sadly no amount of keeping those evil “weapons of war” out of the hands of MAGA Republicans would have changed the outcome of this story.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
9 months ago

It always bothers me that people can say– in the same breath and totally seriously– that not only do we have a terrible awful gun violence crisis… but also it’s totally normal and Portland is no different than anywhere else, or itself at any moment in time.

There seems to be a concerted effort to shout down any criticism of Portland as a “right wing conspiracy”, even when someone in your own community gets caught in the crossfire and permanently injured or worse.

Ignoring the root cause of these problems and pretending they don’t exist is hurting all of us and it’s time we stop listening to people who are pushing the ostrich narrative: Portland is actually “just fine” and we shouldn’t say “bad things” about it. It’s disingenuous and I’m tired of being shamed and ostracized for speaking about the stuff that we all see on the streets every day in Portland. This needs to end.

Let me adapt the Narcissist’s Prayer:

It’s always been like this.

And if it hasn’t, then it’s like this everywhere now.

And if it’s not like this everywhere now, then it must be because we’re special.

And if we’re special then this is actually good.