Skip to main content

On March 28, 2023, the victim of a violent attack at Unity Center for Behavioral Health filed a civil lawsuit in Portland, Oregon. The lawsuit names Unity, Portland’s only psychiatric emergency facility, as defendant and alleges that as a result of negligent security and negligent monitoring of patients, Ms. Sonya Gonzales was attacked and left bleeding on the ground, suffering a concussion and severe emotional damage. 

Ms. Gonzales was standing outside of Unity, waiting for her son to pick her up. As she stood waiting for him, a man came up behind her and struck her in the head with a 35-pound rock. Ms. Gonzales fell after she was struck, suffering a second blow when she hit her head on the wall behind her. She lay bleeding until she came to and was able to get inside the building. The suit alleges that no security personnel from inside the building came to her aid while she was lying  on the ground bleeding. 

Unity Center for Behavioral Health operates a special emergency department for adults 18 and older experiencing mental health crises. evaluated. Unity has the ability to involuntarily admit individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. Unity is located in Portland’s Lloyd District, an area of the city that has been experiencing a steady rise in violent crime since 2017. 

The man who attacked Ms. Gonzales, Dwayne Simpson, had been experiencing severe mental health crises in the weeks leading up to the attack. Police records show that at different incidents, Simpson threatened to violently assault a woman and even kill a woman. Evidence shows that on the day of the attack, Simpson had been discharged from Unity, despite experiencing violent and homicidal ideation and still being in need of expert care. Simpson is facing criminal charges related to the attack on Ms. Gonzales. 

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Gonzales has been unable to work since the attack, and continues to experience severe symptoms. She is hopeful that she will continue her recovery and be able to return to work. “I just want to feel safe,” she said, “I want to know that Unity is doing what it is supposed to by making sure that people in the neighborhood are safe. I want to make sure that no one else goes through a preventable attack like I did.”  

Ms. Gonzales is represented by Crew Janci LLPconsidered one of the “go-to” law firms for victims of violent crimes in Oregon and across the country.

Press Coverage 

Shiwanni Johnson

Shiwanni began her legal career in civil litigation with a focus on employment discrimination and sexual harassment. At Crew Janci, Shiwanni litigates sex abuse cases, with a special focus on online sex abuse and nonconsensual dissemination. “One of the things that perpetrators try to take away from victims of sex abuse is the ability to participate fully in all areas of life. Justice for survivors means a reclaiming of that ability, on their terms. I am grateful to be a part of that journey.” In her free time, Shiwanni enjoys reading, doing crossword puzzles, skating with her dog—Cirrus, practicing her baking skills, and debating the pros and cons of an all-butter pie crust.