PORTLAND, OR – Brandi Horner was kidnapped. Then she was sexually assaulted. Then she was shot. Then she was thrown from a moving car. Then, forced to go door to door to try to find help, she was rebuffed by people in six houses who refused to open their doors – or even turn on their porch light – for her.
In just a few hours on the morning of July 1, 2016, Brandi went through more trauma than many people do in a lifetime.
As the man responsible for kidnapping and assaulting Brandi is preparing to be sentenced on Monday to 13 years and nine months for his crimes, she wants the world to know that “things can be overcome. It’s not easy. But we need to help, look out for each other.”
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Brandi is a 44-year-old resident of Southeast Portland who, even before July 2016, had had some hard times.
“I went to school in Beavercreek, then Clackamas High School,” she says. Eventually the family moved to Prineville where her parents ran an RV park that they designed and built.
Brandi says that family life was good but, despite that, there were obstacles, things to overcome, adjust to.
Things were tough at first, she says.
“Things were so bad that I couldn’t even leave the house for a long time,” she says. “I was on what I call walking coma meds.”
There was also a son, a marriage. A divorce.
“I asked my parents to take my son when he was young,” she says. “My parents were great parents and I wanted him to have great parents like I had. I haven’t always been the healthiest of people and I was going to be on my own.
“I wanted what was best for him.”
Her father passed in 2010. A couple of years later, Brandi’s mother and son moved to Portland.
“I shortly followed,” she says. “I worked odd jobs, just little odd jobs. When I moved back to Portland, I wanted to do things differently. I had had some traumatic things happen to me, things that were bad, that I still have some trouble moving past completely.
“In Portland, I wanted to, I wanted to have something resembling a normal life. I wanted to be better, to have more than meds and therapy.”
She originally moved in with someone that she’d known from high school but it was not a good situation and she was quickly out of money.
“It was just crazy,” she says. “And before I knew it, I was living in my car.”
Why not move in with her mother and son?
“My family didn’t have the means,” she says. “My mom was staying with relatives and there wasn’t any room. So I stayed in my car for a while.”
Before long, she was living on the streets, specifically camping out with other homeless by the bike path.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” she says. “I don’t even know how I did it. There are people that you have to be very careful, people you think you can trust but you can’t. And those are the people you think of as friends.
“I don’t know how I ever did it. I wouldn’t survive now. I don’t know how I did it. There’s no real law out there.”
Brandi almost didn’t survive there.
“One day, before I knew it, I was on the ground being attacked,” she says. “A group of young men, they stole my backpack, my stuff. And they were kicking me in the head and face.
“They must have kicked me 60 or 70 times.”
Brandi says that the attack was vicious. Despite that, she says, she was not surprised to learn that outside of the police, no one really paid attention.
“I know people who have gone missing and the news never reports about them,” she says. “It’s as if people don’t care about the homeless, it’s as if the people don’t even exist except as a problem.
“It’s not that the homeless are some group of people who are all the same, using needles, shoplifting. They’re not all bad, just like not everyone lives in a home is bad.
“But when I got attacked, there wasn’t much response, notice. I had some who helped. It left me in a bad place.”
Brandi, who ended up with nine staples in her head because of the attack, says that she really feels the attack might “have been a gang thing, you know, people go out, rob and attack some homeless person. I think they were trying to kill me.
“I wonder how many people would have noticed.”
JULY 1 – CANTON GRILL
“I got my disability check that morning,” she says. “I would have gotten it on the 3rd but it was a weekend or something and I got it early. I was, at this point, I had started living with my boyfriend.”
They walked to Canton Grill, a nearby Chinese food place near them.
“My boyfriend liked to play video poker and I hated it,” she says. “I had paid for dinner. Then he wanted money for the poker. And we got in an argument about money. We were fighting.”
They were also being watched.
“I remember him saying some comment about some weirdo or something, some creeper guy who was sitting in his car by the parking lot,” she says. “I was mad at him and I pretended not to hear him and ignore him.”
They kept walking, stopping at the 7-11 to pick up some stuff and then continued up Powell toward 88th.
“Thus black car drives right up to us,” she says. “This guy jumps out like the Terminator. He didn’t hesitate for a second, like a robot, almost mechanical. Got out of his car with a gun in his hand.”
Brandi and her boyfriend looked at each other. Neither knew the guy.
“This guy walks up to my boyfriend and just put the gun to his face and told him to walk away,” she says. “He had a gun to my boyfriend’s head and was making him walk away.
“I secretly felt relieved. I’ve felt guilty about that ever since. What kind of person feels relieved when their boyfriend is forced to walk by a man holding a gun to his head? I’ve felt guilty about that ever since.”
Brandi knows that it “was a survival thing. I had been so much, I just didn’t want it to be me. I was so relieved at that moment that it was him and not me. Who does that?”
The relief didn’t last long.
“I kind of break the story into three chapters,” Brandi says. “The first chapter is being abducted until the car drives off. The second part is in his car.
“The third part starts when he starts driving erratically, convinced the police are right behind us.”
Brandi says that the first chapter begins with him suddenly, “this guy starts running toward me from wherever he left my boyfriend,” Brandi says. “I think maybe he wants to rob me, you know, because I’d just been robbed so that was what I expected.
“I start handing him my things. My phone, my wallet, whatever I have. He doesn’t want my things.”
Suddenly, it becomes clear to Brandi, she says.
“He spotted me at the Canton Grill and followed us,” she says. “He told me this.
“He puts the gun on me and tells me, you’re going to get in my car or I’m going to shoot you. Right here. Get in the car.”
Brandi says she did as told because “I didn’t want to get shot. The whole time I’m thinking he’s not going to let me live because I’ve seen his face.”
She then starts thinking maybe that’s not the case.
“I think maybe that he’s taking me to his frat house and he and his friends are going to have their way with me, attack me all kinds of ways,” she says, adding that the thought didn’t last long because she didn’t know where they were going exactly but it didn’t seem that far.
“I was afraid,” she says. “I kept telling him that my name is Brandi. I’m a mom. I have a son. He’s a good boy and he needs me. Over and over again. I wanted him to know that I’m a person. I have someone who depends on me.
“Then I thought if maybe he’s abducting a woman, maybe ‘s having an issue with women, his mom or someone, and I kept telling him I have a son, I’m not a bad mom. I’m not going to do whatever his mom did to him.”
Brandi says she didn’t “know where the stuff was coming from but I just tried to keep reminding him that I was a person.”
Not long after, Brandi says they came to a stop. She couldn’t tell where they were.
He had made her keep head down in the passenger seat, her hands on the dash.
“I really don’t want to talk about some of it,” she says. “I wasn’t raped. He slid into the back seat behind and did things. At one point, he told me about something he was going to do that his girlfriend wouldn’t do.
“I told him that I know torture and I know pain. I’m just not going to do that. You’re going to have to shoot me.”
Brandi says that at that point, “I closed my eyes as tight as I could and thought that whatever happens, I’m good with that. I was good with my family. I was good with god. I was okay at that moment.
“But he didn’t shoot me.”
Brandi says that “he kind of whacked me across the back of the head but he didn’t shoot me. And that was my first bit of hope because if he didn’t shoot me then maybe he wasn’t going to shoot me.
“I started to get hope and a little bit of strength. I wanted to live.”
JUST QUIT CALLING
“I’m on my knees in front of the passenger seat at one point and my phone keeps ringing,” Brandi says. “I could see it. I could see that it was the police department calling and I wasn’t going to answer but it was making me very nervous.
“Every time that my phone starts to ring, he’s jumping and I’m thinking these f—— are going to get me shot. It’s going to startle him and he’s going to shoot me. I was like, just quit calling.”
At that, Brandi says the thought entered her head that maybe they kept “calling so they could triangulate my position like they do in the movies. I just kept trying to stay focused, keep reminding him what my name is and that I’m a mom so that he saw me as a person.”
Brandi says that people tell her that she’s got a lousy poker face, that people can tell what she’s thinking.
So she tried to keep positive thoughts in her head.
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“I kept thinking of my son,” she says. “But when he was much younger. The weird thing is that I was picturing him as very young — he’s in his teens now — and we were living in the apartment where I was then with my boyfriend.”
She says that she then thought briefly about things that she could do to try and escape — punching the gas pedal with her hand, hitting the steering wheel. But she realized that if she did, it would make it more likely that she would get shot.
“I went back to thinking about my son, not look like I was planning or scheming. But it wasn’t working.”
Brandi says that he told her, “if they come at us, he said he’s going to shoot it out with them. And he’s going to use me as a shield. I think that he could see I was thinking about something.
“It just he seemed that it was random, out of the blue that he said it. So I stopped.”
BONNIE AND CLYDE
Brandi says that he started driving erratically and she was not happy.
“He hadn’t shot me and that made me relieved,” she says. “But the way he was driving, I suddenly was really mad. You’re not going to shoot me but you’re going to kill me with your driving?
“He’s going to f—— kill me in his car or I’m going be mangled? No way.”
And that’s when she said it.
“I don’t know where it came from,” she says. “I wasn’t thinking about it. It just came out of my mouth. I said, ‘Slow down, baby. I don’t think they’re after us.’
“In my head, I’m all what? Ewww! But that’s what I said. Next thing, I said, ‘I don’t hear them, I don’t hear sirens.’ “
He actually started to slow down a little, Brandi says.
“He seemed to be suddenly listening and I kept going like that. ‘We’re Bonnie and Clyde. I’m on your side. They’re not going to get us. It’s going to be OK.’ “
Brandi says that in the almost three years since, she’s heard from people who question the approach that she took, saying that she should have done this or that.
“I tell them that clearly I did something right because I’m still here and able to listen to your stupid advice.
“So, I kept up with the Bonnie and Clyde stuff.”
“So, we’re driving a little slower but still going kind of fast and suddenly we catch air and my rear bumps up against the glove box,” she says. “Ten maybe 20 second later, we catch air again and I tap my behind on the glove box again and come back down.
“This time it hurts. I was like, wait. Thjs really hurts. And I’m face down on the passenger seat, reclined. And I reach my hand back and bring it back and my hand is covered with blood.
” ‘You m—–f—–! You just shot me!’ “
Brandi says that “just a second before, I’m like we’re Bonnie and Clyde. And now I’m looking at him and I feel like I have some kind of pain induced Tourette’s. And then I looked up and saw his face.
“He hadn’t realized that he had shot me either. He looked horrified that he shot me.”
To this day, Brandi maintains that she did not hear any gunshots and believes that she was only shot accidentally, not intentionally. That’s what she told detectives and that’s what she believes today.
“He was just as shocked that he shot me as I was at having been shot. It didn’t mean I was feeling any less pain or anything. It really hurt.”
Brandi says that at that point, she could tell that she was bleeding pretty heavily.
“At that point,” she says. “My better angels were telling me what to say. I’m still on your side. You could let me go and I wouldn’t do anything to harm you. I don’t think they’re after us anymore. I’m going to slow you down. You know, I’m bleeding pretty heavily.
“I’m just going to slow you down.”
Brandi says that she was holding her breath, wondering what he was going to do. Was he going to finish her off since he’d already shot her, is he going to let her go?
“All of a sudden, he slows the car down, opens the door, and pushes me out,” she says.
“He takes off in the car.”
WHAT’S YOUR FULL NAME?
“I struggle to my feet,” she says. “I’m not feeling too well. I’m losing blood. I’m a mess. I start knocking on doors.
“I knocked on the doors of six homes and no one would even turn on a porch light. Forget about coming to the door and offering to help me. Six houses and not one person wanted to do anything to help me.
“I know that I didn’t look too good and I was bleeding and they probably thought I was crazy. I kept saying, yelling as much as I could, that my name is Brandi. I’ve been shot. The police are looking for me. I’m thinking, I can’t believe with all I’ve been through that night, I was just going to die in the street.”
Brandi says that she was ready to give up at that point.
“Then, just like in the movies, this big police SUV, lights on, comes over the hill, sees me in the street and stops. An officer gets out and stands behind the door, I guess for safety. He didn’t really know what was happening, whether the guy who shot me was still there.
“He’s like, what’s your name?
“And I say ‘Brandi.’
“And he says ‘Brandi what?’
“And I say ‘Brandi Horner.’
“He says, ‘Brandi Horner. We’ve been looking for you. All of us. Everywhere.’
“And those are the best words that I’ve ever heard in my whole entire life ever.”
It was about 4 a.m. and she had been rescued.
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
Brandi was rushed to Oregon Health Sciences University where there were dozens of people waiting by the emergency room as the ambulance transporting her pulled up.
“I said to the paramedic who are all these people and he says, they’re here for you,” he says, going on “Everybody in the city knows what happened. Everyone here wanted to see that you were okay.
“He told me they shut bridges to find me.”
Brandi says that the whole thing was just a whirlwind of unbelievable moments.
“It’s so rare for someone to kidnap a stranger, to shoot a stranger, to sexually assault a stranger,” Brandi says. “The detectives said I was their random case. Not one of their random cases but their one random case.
“One detective told me that it was more likely for me to have been struck by lightning.”
AFTERMATH AND EPILOGUE
Just minutes after Brandi was found, officers responded to the Hawthorne Bridge.
There was report of a crash halfway across in the westbound lanes. Someone calling 911 said that the person who crashed the car had fired shots as he fled.
The Police Bureau’s Special Emergency Response Team and others closed off the bridge and the area looking for the man. They found video showing that the man had fled back east rather than continuing west.
Checking the car, they were able to determine that their suspect was Anthony David Stone. Detectives were not sure why he had come to Portland. He had a record but appeared to be from Connecticut.
In December, 2017, Stone was arrested in Chicago.
The following month, he was extradited to Oregon to face charges.
On Monday, as part of a plea agreement, Stone pleaded guilty to kidnapping and shooting Brandi. He was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison.
Brandi says that she’s not overjoyed that it’s not longer but does want to make some things clear.
“I don’t hate this guy,” she says. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy. But I don’t have huge revenge plots or hope that he fries for all eternity. I’m not that kind of person. I forgive easily I guess. Hatred would have consumed me.
“It would have changed me and I don’t want to harbor a bunch of hatred in my heart. I guess that I do believe in people, that we can look out for each other. Not everyone’s good, not everyone’s bad.
“We’re just all here.”
Photo via Colin Miner.