A driver’s series of hit-and-runs in Portland, Ore. – which left one person dead and nine injured – does not appear to be an act of terrorism, police said Tuesday, though they say the driver’s actions were deliberate.
“Detectives did not find bias indicators, nor do they believe this is politically motivated,” police said in a statement.
They added that the driver’s actions “did show intent to hit and injure people.”
An investigation spanning dozens of city blocks unfolded after officers said they received an emergency call about noon local time Monday reporting an SUV driving erratically in a residential neighborhood in the city’s northeast. Similar calls came in about 1 p.m., with witnesses telling police that the vehicle was careening down the two-lane streets at 50 to 60 mph and had hit a pedestrian.
The motorist eventually crashed the silver Honda Element, then fled on foot. After a brief chase, bystanders cornered the suspect until officers arrived and arrested him, police said.
A person who was struck died at a hospital Monday afternoon, according to police, and five others were treated for injuries that were not considered life-threatening. At least three other victims did not seek hospital treatment. Among those who survived, two were cyclists and six were pedestrians, according to police.
Police did not identify the suspect but said he was also transported to a local hospital and remained there as of Tuesday morning. Authorities say they’ll release his name and charges when he is booked into jail. Traffic investigators drew his blood, which will be sent a lab for analysis, according to police.
The deadly chain of events rattled the city, which was already on edge after dealing with waves of political violence and property destruction from extremist groups on the left and the right in recent months. Portland is also still grappling with the fallout from a vicious attack in 2017 in which a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs fatally stabbed two men and injured a third on the city’s light-rail system.
“The multiple hit and run crashes by the same suspect yesterday were traumatic for our community,” Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a statement. “All of us at PPB send our sincere condolences to the loved ones of the person who was killed as well as our hopes for recovery to those injured. We are committed to a full investigation so that the person involved can be held accountable for these senseless acts of violence.”
Witnesses in the tree-lined neighborhood said they watched the driver zigzag across the streets with abandon, clipping pedestrians as he sped through red lights and swerved onto sidewalks. At one point, he smashed into a retaining wall, according to witnesses.
Charles Kuziuk told a local ABC affiliate that he heard a “bloodcurdling scream,” then saw a woman lying facedown on the sidewalk. He said she told him that the driver had tried to run over her a second time after knocking her to the ground.
“That was the first time I heard that and thought this was an intentional thing,” Kuziuk said. “She seemed shaken from the idea that someone was trying to hurt her.”
Tyler Meyer told The Oregonian that he watched the vehicle strike a pedestrian, then make a U-turn and slam into another as it doubled back.
The driver eventually plowed the car into another vehicle, mangling its front fender, then got out and fled on foot.
Witness videos posted on social media show a group of bystanders surrounding a person in a dark sweatshirt and maroon pants who appears to try to fend them off near the address where police say the driver was arrested. Soon after, police are seen arriving at the scene. The person appears to swing at them with his fists before several officers tackle him to the ground.
Police initially said they received the first call about the driver at 1 p.m., but later said a report of an erratic driver in the area had come in an hour earlier.
“It definitely was one of these things that started out as what they thought was one kind of call and developed into something much bigger,” Portland Fire and Rescue spokesman Rich Chatman told reporters Monday evening.
“It sounds like there was a lot of chaos going on,” he said. “Our hearts go out to all the friends and family of those who were injured.”