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Motel death investigation on Powell turns into manhunt

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It all started with a 'suspicious vehicle' report -- followed by a pursuit, a discovered murder; and finally an arrest

DAVID F. ASHTON - Using a ladder to see over the top of the garage where the "person of interest" was captured, this Forensic Evidence Division member documents the scene.
An attempt to stop a stolen 2009 green Ford Escape from leaving the parking lot of a Powell Boulevard motel at 8:26 a.m. on Friday morning, April 21, turned into a death investigation – and then a neighborhood-wide manhunt for a "person of interest", not far away, later that day.

A Central Precinct police officer was the one who noticed the stolen green Ford Escape at the Motel 6 at 3104 S.E. Powell Boulevard, and tried to stop the driver – who, instead, took off eastbound.

The officer, seeing the stolen car being driven "extremely recklessly", and believing the driver was endangering the safety of the public, called off the pursuit near S.E. Chavez Boulevard (formerly 39th), at Francis Street.

Meantime, something back at the Motel 6 caught another officer's eye, which led to the discovery of a dead woman inside Room 229. The victim was later identified as 42 year-old Valerie Johnson.

District officers secured the scene, and members of the PPB Homicide Division, Forensic Evidence Division, the Oregon State Medical Examiner, and the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office responded to the motel and began a "suspicious death" investigation.

Not giving up on the stolen car, East Precinct officers prowled the area where it was last seen, and located the green Ford stopped between houses on S.E. 51st Avenue, three houses north of Gladstone Street.

The officers, with the aid of two Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) members and a K9 team, began a search for the occupant of the stolen vehicle in the surrounding neighborhood. "They did not locate any persons of interests during that search," Burley reported, but they remained in the area.

At about 1:30 p.m., a Creston-Kenilworth neighbor called 9-1-1, reporting a "suspicious person" running through yards, heading south, along 52nd Avenue near Francis Street.

"Based on the description provided, responding officers believed the suspicious person was likely the driver of the stolen car, and a person of interest in the suspicious death at the Motel 6," later reported Portland Police spokesman Sergeant Chris Burley.

Both Creston Elementary and Hosford Middle Schools went into lockdown at 1:38 p.m., as the manhunt got underway.

At 1:56 p.m., 33 police units had responded into the area, setting up a dragnet from S.E. Mall to Francis Streets, and from 52nd to 54th Avenues. Portland Fire & Rescue Woodstock Station 25, responding to a gas main rupture near SE Foster Road, was rerouted around 52nd because of the police roadblock.

MCDC BOOKING PHOTO - 31-year-old Joshua Scott Carlson is in jail – charged with Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle…and Murder. 
Neighbors kept giving officers their updated sightings of the suspect; and by about 3 p.m. SERT and the Crisis Negotiation Team had found the suspect on the roof of a detached garage in the east property line of 4006 S.E. 52nd Avenue, and took him into custody.

"I didn't hear any gunshots during the arrest," neighbor Katie Hunt told reporters after the capture. Officers had told her to stay inside, and away from the windows, so Hunt said she hid under her heavy dining room table. "They borrowed a ladder from my neighbor; there were, like, 20 SWAT team members around in my backyard."

About the "person of interest", Hunt said, "He looked young – a skinhead, with a lot of tattoos. And, he looked really, really mad about being caught!"

Having recently moved to Portland from Detroit, Hunt commended the officers. "I'm really comforted by the [police] response."

Sgt. Burley confirmed, "The person was taken into custody without incident."

31-year-old Joshua Scott Carlson was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 11:55 p.m. that evening on charges of Murder and Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle. Carlson is currently being held without bail at MCDC on those charges.

The following day, Sgt. Burley reported that the Oregon State Medical Examiner determined Valerie Johnson died of strangulation.

Persons with information to offer about this case should contact Detective Brad Clifton at 503/823-0696 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – or Detective Bryan Steed at 503/823-0395 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.