Guard hired to protect Portland businesses wasn’t firearm certified when he killed

On the evening of May 29, gunfire echoed across a North Portland shopping plaza.

Around 6:30 p.m, an armed security guard on patrol at Delta Park Center fatally shot Freddy Nelson Jr., 49, four times through the windshield of Nelson’s Nissan Frontier as he sat in the plaza’s parking lot, according to interviews with eyewitnesses and family members.

Records show the shooter, identified by OPB as 28-year-old Logan Gimbel, was one of at least three guards working for Cornerstone Security Group, a company that states it only provides armed security, who did not have a license to carry a gun while on the job.

The bullets pierced Nelson’s head, heart and both of his lungs, according to his father, who has spoken with detectives and a victim advocate from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. Witnesses said Nelson’s wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, jumped out of the vehicle at the last shot with her shirt drenched in blood and pepper spray, screaming at the guard, “You killed my husband.”

In a city plagued with a skyrocketing number of shootings, Nelson’s death — the 37th homicide this year and the second that day — faded almost immediately from public attention. Unlike the two fatal shootings by Portland police officers this year, Nelson’s death has received no media scrutiny and triggered little public outrage.

Yet, his death serves as a case study for another notable law enforcement problem the city is grappling with: powerful business interests turning to private security to do the work of police officers, enabling them to wield force against vulnerable Portlanders with a fraction of the oversight.

TMT Development, one of the city’s biggest real estate companies, had contracted with Cornerstone Security Group to patrol the Delta Park Center for more than a year. In the spring of 2020, Vanessa Sturgeon, CEO of the company and a board member of the influential Portland Business Alliance, asked the guards to police the crowds converging on the plaza’s BottleDrop, one of the few locations open at the time where people could recycle empty bottles and cans for cash. The company said the security was necessary, in part, because the long, sometimes unruly lines weaving across the shopping center posed a public health threat in the middle of the pandemic.

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Over objections from BottleDrop management, TMT Development asked the armed guards to bring order to the crowd. The guards kept the line short near the BottleDrop and held the rest of the customers at bay on North Hayden Meadows Drive on the other side of the parking lot, roughly 350 feet away.

It didn’t take long for customers to start chafing against the restrictions imposed by security personnel with Cornerstone. Five patrons interviewed by OPB describe the guards as caustic and callous as they enforced the line regulations on some of the city’s poorest residents. For many…

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