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Two killed outside Portland club

Mon., Jan. 26, 2009

Gunman, seven others wounded in incident police say was a random act of violence

PORTLAND – A gunman opened fire outside an under-21 nightclub in Portland, killing two girls and wounding seven other people before shooting himself in what police say might be a random act of violence.

Detective Mary Wheat, a police spokeswoman, said the shooting does not appear connected to gangs, and there was no indication the man had a relationship with any of the people he shot in front of The Zone nightclub late Saturday. A stray bullet hit a man outside a neighboring bar.

Wheat said investigators are trying to determine the shooter’s path to the club, but it does not appear he had been inside it or the nearby bar beforehand. Police late Sunday identified the alleged gunman as Erik Salvadore Ayala, 24. He was in critical condition after shooting himself in the head, Wheat said.

Police have recovered the gun used in the shooting, Wheat said.

“At first blush, this incident appears to be a random act of violence, of the kind that makes you despair for America,” said Chief Rosie Sizer of the Portland Police Bureau. Sizer described the shooting as “unprecedented” for the city.

Ashley L. Wilks, a 16-year-old from Portland, was killed. The other victim has not been identified, but Miguel Velasquez of the Peruvian Consulate in Seattle said she was a 17-year-old girl from Peru in an exchange program. He said her host family lives in White Salmon, Wash.

Autopsies were performed Sunday, but the results have not been released.

Both girls were part of a group of exchange students at The Zone to celebrate a birthday, said Chuck Itoh, chairman of the Rotary District 5100 exchange program. The Portland girl was getting ready to leave for her trip.

Wilks’ stepfather, Randy Thiesen, told the Oregonian that the family is not ready to talk about the shootings: “We’re just shocked. We’re not doing good.”

Besides the alleged gunman, one of the other shooting victims was in critical condition Sunday; two others were treated and released. The rest were hospitalized, but were expected to survive.

Scott Bieber, the youth protection officer for the exchange program, said four of the wounded were exchange students. They are residents of Ecuador, France, Guatemala and Taiwan.

“Our hearts and our sympathies, thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ parents for their loss,” Bieber said. “But it just kind of makes it harder to fathom when the whole purpose of this program is to foster peace and goodwill and understanding around the world.”

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