Regional News


(Portland, OR) -- The State of Oregon has paused acceptance of new applications for emergency rental assistance. The Oregon Housing and Community Services agency says all of the 289-million dollars in federal money has been allocated. They're continuing to process applications for assistance, but aren't taking new applications for six weeks. There are local rent assistance funds available. Tenants should call 2-1-1 or community action agencies in their area if they're in danger of eviction. The Oregon Legislature will meet later this month to consider allocating local money to continue the program.



(Portland, OR) -- A federal jury has found two Portland members of the Gypsy Joker Outlaw Motorcycle Club guilty of kidnapping and murder in the death of a former club member. The body of Robert Huggins was found in a Clark County, Washington field in 2015. He had been tortured before his death. Portland Gypsy Joker clubhouse president 61-year-old Mark Dencklau, of Woodburn, and 51-year-old Chad Erickson, of Rainier were both found guilty of murder and kidnapping in connection with racketeering. They face mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison.



(Portland, OR) -- Oregon has 25 new deaths related to COVID-19 and one-thousand-111 new cases. The Oregon Health Authority reported the new numbers yesterday. There are 404 people hospitalized, which is the same number as Tuesday. There have been five-thousand-186 deaths and 392-thousand-197 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.



(Banks, OR) -- Police say the deaths of two people found in a car on Highway 26 near Banks was a murder-suicide. The Washington County Sheriff's Office says a Nissan Altima was found stopped on the side of the highway around 3:30 Wednesday morning with the bodies of two people inside. Investigators say 46-year-old Alejandro Gomez-Blanco, of Beaverton, shot and killed his wife 44-year-old Yolanda Constantino before killing himself. A gun was found in the car. The westbound lanes of Highway 26 were closed six hours for the investigation.



(Salem, OR) -- A man who was mistakenly released from the Marion County Jail is back behind bars. Police say 30-year-old Salvador Guido Ledesma was arrested without incident yesterday after someone spotted him in downtown Salem and called 911. Ledesma had been convicted of sex abuse and rape and was in jail while appealing his case. He was released on November 22nd, because of an administrative mistake. The Marion County Sheriff's Office didn't realize Ledesma had been released until November 30th. An investigation is underway to determine how a future accidental release of an inmate can be prevented.



(Beaverton, OR) -- A Beaverton Lyft driver arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting one of his passengers is out on bail. The Washington County Sheriff's Office says 32-year-old Omar al Naser posted 25-thousand dollars bail to be released from jail. He's due back in court tomorrow. Police say al Naser drove a female passenger to his home instead of hers and then assaulted her on October 23rd. Police believe there could be additional victims.



(Portland, OR) -- The union representing the teachers in Portland Public Schools is proposing a plan to limit in-person classes for some students. The Portland Association of Teachers says a recent survey of its members found half of them are considering leaving the profession altogether, citing long hours and stress. The proposal would change the schedule for high school students, moving them to a four-day schedule with Fridays off and eight periods on all other days. The union is proposing either an early release or late start for K-8 students on those days as well.



(Salem, OR) -- Oregon Governor Kate Brown is calling a special session of the Legislature on December 13th to consider eviction protection for renters. The state has received 289-million dollars in federal rental assistance which has now been fully allocated. The Governor wants the Legislature to extend eviction protections for renters who have applied for assistance, ensure landlords get paid in full for back rent, provide 90-million dollars in rental assistance to cover the winter months, and 100-million dollars to create long-term, locally delivered eviction prevention services.



(Gresham, OR) -- At least one local school district is making a change to its outdoor mask policy after the state lifted the outdoor mask mandate last week. The Gresham-Barlow School District says masks outdoors will now be optional for students. It applies to recess, outdoor instruction and outdoor P.E. Parents are encouraged to talk with their kids about their expectations for mask wearing. Masks are still mandatory indoors.



(Portland, OR) -- Oregon has 19 new deaths from COVID-19 and one-thousand-54 new infections. The Oregon Health Authority reported the new numbers yesterday. There are 404 people currently hospitalized with coronavirus statewide, which is eight more than on Monday. There have now been five-thousand-161 deaths and 391-thousand-99 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon since the pandemic began.



(Portland, OR) -- Water tests in older Portland homes shows higher than acceptable levels of lead. Twice a year, the water from 100 homes that have plumbing with lead solder are tested and the results show 21 parts per billion. The EPA limit is 15 parts per billion. Homeowners with plumbing that uses lead solder should run water to flush out the lead and consider using a filter. Next year, the Portland Water Bureau will bring a Corrosion Control facility online that will reduce the ability of the water to leach lead from the solder.



(Portland, OR) -- TriMet is handing out hefty hiring bonuses in an attempt to attract more bus drivers to the transportation agency. The agency says new bus drivers who join TriMet will receive a 25-hundred-dollar hiring bonus. No prior experience is necessary, and training lasts seven weeks. TriMet says pay starts at 21 dollars an hour and increases to nearly 33 dollars an hour after about three years. TriMet is among multiple transportation agencies struggling to stay afloat under a national labor shortage.



(Portland, OR) -- A Portland Police Bureau commander who encouraged residents to vote against District Attorney Mike Schmidt during a neighborhood meeting could face a fine. Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan issued a notice of a proposed civil fine last week against Police Commander Erica Hurley. The notice says Hurley violated state election laws by criticizing Schmidt to the public during her work hours. Public employees in Oregon are banned from supporting or opposing candidates or office-holders while on the job. Hurley encouraged residents to vote against Schmidt while speaking at a meeting with the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association in January.



(Portland, OR) -- Over two-dozen more Oregonians are dead after contracting COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority reported 27 new coronavirus deaths yesterday from Wednesday through Sunday. That raises Oregon's death toll from the pandemic to five-thousand-142. The health authority also reported nearly two-thousand-600 new cases of COVID-19. A total of 396 people are currently hospitalized with the virus statewide, including 91 patients in the ICU.



(Portland, OR) -- Today is the deadline for roughly 38-thousand state workers, contractors and volunteers in Oregon to show they are fully-vaccinated against COVID-19. Workers unions and state leaders negotiated a six-week extension from the original vaccination deadline from the original October 18th date. The extension mainly covered those working in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Agriculture and the Forestry Department.



(Portland, OR) -- Oregon residents can expect to pay more at the Christmas tree lot this year. Officials say a variety of factors has led to what is believed to be a ten-to-30-percent spike in prices over last year across the Pacific Northwest. Christmas tree farm owners say supply chain and transportation costs have been a huge factor. They say forest fires, drought, and extreme heat this summer in the Pacific Northwest took a collective toll on this year's tree crop. The Beaverton Holiday U-Cut Tree Farm tells KATU-2 the summer heat wave killed more than 60-percent of the trees they planted last winter.



(Portland, OR) -- Local county health officials remain on the lookout for signs of the highly mutated new omicron COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa. Clark County deputy health officer Doctor Steven Krager says he believes there's a high chance that the variant has already made its way to the region. He's urging residents to continue to take precautions to remain healthy. The omicron variant has not yet been detected by health officials in the U.S.



(Portland, OR) -- Police in Washington County are using bait packages in an attempt to catch so-called "porch pirates" this holiday season. The Washington County Sheriff's Office says it's working with volunteer residents who have previously been victimized by package thieves to carry out the sting. The packages are placed on the volunteers' doorsteps and include a normal product along with a GPS tracking device that allows police to track anyone who steals it.



(Springfield, OR) -- A man is facing several charges following a police pursuit in Springfield. Police say an officer was patrolling near 42nd and Main Street early yesterday morning when they noticed a car driving carelessly and tried to pull it over. Police say the driver refused to pull over, leading to a car chase that ended when police disabled the driver's vehicle in the parking lot of International Paper. The driver then allegedly got out of the car and fled on foot into a nearby cattle field. Police brought in a K-9 unit to track him down and arrest him. Police identify the suspect as 36-year-old Trask Austin Phelps.



(Portland, OR) -- The Uptown Beer Company is celebrating the successful return of its in-person Dark Beer Festival in Southwest Portland. The company tells KATU-2 that Saturday's festival sold out ahead of the event for the first time ever. Last year's festival was limited to take-home beers due to the pandemic. This year's event featured 25 dark beers from all over the Pacific Northwest.



(Portland, OR) -- Two juveniles were arrested on Sunday in Portland in connection with the armed robbery of a gas station. Police say the robbery happened at the ARCO gas station on Northwest Cornell Road in Oak Hills. Four people wearing masks and gloves robbed the gas station and then fled on foot. A police K9 searched the area and found two juvenile suspects. They were arrested and booked into the juvenile detention facility and will be charged with robbery.



(Lincoln City, OR) -- A large sea lion is safely back in the water after wandering through a neighborhood in Lincoln City, Oregon Friday evening. Police and firefighters named her Tiffany and used fish donated by a local market in an attempt to lure her back to a nearby river, but she refused to budge. They got pieces of plywood and formed a corral to slowly move her back to the river where she waited for high tide. It's rare for sea lions to travel so far from the water, but there have been other instances in the Northwest when it's happened.



(Rainier, OR) -- One person is injured following a shooting in Rainier. The Columbia County Sheriff's Office says deputies responded to the shooting just before 1 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The victim was taken to a hospital. Police are still searching for suspects.



(Portland, OR) -- As many Portland residents are preparing to fly out of town for the holiday this week, concern is mounting over where their vehicles will be parked while they're gone. Parking lots at PDX have been targets of catalytic converter thieves in recent months, a crime of opportunity that is growing across Portland and across the country. The Port of Portland says they will have extra security on hand for the increase in travelers utilizing their parking lots at the airport. Between January and October this year, the Port of Portland is reporting nearly 70 catalytic converter thefts from PDX parking lots and around the airport property.



(Portland, OR) -- Detectives with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office say an attack on two men last week may have been racially motivated. Forty-four-year-old Joseph Haddenham is accused of attacking two men with a pair of scissors Friday evening at the Green Line MAX platform on Southeast Sunnyside Road. Police were called as Haddenham was restrained by bystanders who tied him up with a phone charger. Haddenham was in court Monday, officially facing menacing and unlawful use of a weapon charges.


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