Memorial held for Salem homeless man allegedly killed by 17-year-old

SALEM, Ore. (KGW) — On Friday afternoon, in a small park in Salem, friends and advocates gathered together to remember Russell Mikolas, 64, a homeless man who was severely beaten in late June. He died in the hospital on July 17.

According to those who knew him, Mikolas had been living on the streets, on and off, for about 20 years. He could often be seen collecting cans, and depositing them at the BottleDrop. Friends told KGW he was a kind and gentle soul — someone who went out of his way to help others in need.

“He was liked by all of us,” said Montana, a longtime friend. “All of us out here on the streets and especially in this neighborhood. Everybody knew him well, and we all liked him. He was a friendly guy.”

“Just a super guy. He had a good smile. He liked to joke,” said William Manley. “He didn’t deserve it. Nobody does. Not like that… not like that at all.”

Around 4:30 in the afternoon on June 29, witnesses reported a teenager, physically punching and kicking a person walking down the street, to Salem Police.

Officers confirmed Mikolas was the victim of this brutal assault, and was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. He died a little more than two weeks later.

The Marion County Juvenile Director told KGW the 17-year-old suspect faces a second-degree murder charge, and remains in custody. Officials confirmed the teen could be tried as an adult. 

“It was senseless. There is no reason for it to happen,” Montana said.

“It saddens me,” said John Marshall, pastor of Church at the Park. “The work is still there to do. To love well, and to demonstrate that human life matters.”

“Humans are not disposable. And one day, hopefully, that day will come where we stop throwing people away.”

Jolene Garland, a friend and an advocate, gave a eulogy for the man who spent decades living outside. She helped him manage his Direct Express card, and his savings.

“He was so gentle, but also so broken,” she said. “He would call me sometimes to meet him and he would say can you bring me some 20s and 50s? And then we would drive around and he would just hand out money to people that needed it, because those people helped him.”

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