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Reader Story: Collision cover up (literally) and a cop’s bad attitude

Posted by on July 1st, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Mike Cobb at a recent cargo bike roll call event.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Mike Cobb, well-known to many in the Portland community for his bicycling prowess, mechanical skills, and enthusiasm for cargo bikes (he wrote a dispatch from Seattle’s Disaster Relief Trails for us last month), had an unfortunate incident in the northeast Portland parking lot of Home Depot last night.

Mike was struck by a man driving a black Camaro — and then things got weird. I’ll let Mike tell the rest of the story in his own words…

I was riding west, down approximately the center of the parking lot lane, near the southwestern parking lot corner of the Home Depot on Marine Drive (map). A driver of a black Camaro was traveling in the same direction, approximately 50 feet ahead. He rounded the parking lot corner as I continued. He then stopped and backed up very quickly to enter into a parking space (shown in my pictures below). I noticed the impending collision, so pedaled hard, only to have the rear end of the bike tagged by the backward-moving Camaro’s rear left bumper.

The bumper got cracked, paint was exchanged, and I nearly got knocked off, but held it together. I was really startled and upset and my wrist was slightly bloodied by the handlebar being jerked out of hand and creating rough contact with my wrist.

The driver said he “didn’t see me” and seemed rattled and slightly apologetic. I checked for damage and told him that his bumper was cracked. He didn’t display any anger and certainly didn’t ask for my ID, seemingly corroborating his perception of being at fault (obvious to me). Shook up, but fine, (as far as I could tell) I left the scene. A couple minutes later, I decided that it would have been stupid to not take a picture of the license plate, just in case my boss’ bike frame was cracked (extremely expensive one-of-a-kind award-winning bike) or my shock was concealing injury. That’s when the driver became very verbally aggressive and hostile and stood in front of his license plate, telling me there was “no way that I was getting his license plate number”. He then assigned the concealment task to his daughter (pictured), while he called the police.

The daughter of the driver covered up the license plate.
(Photos by Mike Cobb)

I hung out, telling the driver that concealing the license plate seemed like an extreme display of guilt and that adding a call to the police seemed like a confounding invitation to show the police that he did something wrong.

The police arrived and I was greeted by an inexplicably hostile Officer J. Cioeta’s (North Precinct #33930). I don’t know what his internal motivations were, but his response to my calm, exhaustive explanation made me feel like he was predisposed to cyclist disdain, intent on finding fault. His hostile inquiry felt really awful. If he has any complaints on his record, mine will help build the case to clean up his act. I really don’t want my taxes to reward his style.

The police filed a collision report, finding no fault. I wasn’t interested in pursuing legal action until I, the victim, was treated with such hostility by all parties.

Incidentally, after Officer Cioeta’s partner requested that the young plate-concealing woman step aside so that he could record the number, she stepped aside, then after went right back to hiding it, until the officer said something to the effect, “there’s no longer a need to do that”.

It was explained to me by Officer Cioeta’s partner that concealing a plate after a collision is not illegal and that people do strange things during moments of duress. He told me that I probably understand this type of behavior as a person involved with disaster relief preparedness.

In a follow-up email, Mike shared with me that he felt Officer Cioeta was “mean and aggressively ruthlessly looking for cyclist fault in the face of obvious cyclist victimhood.” He also said he’s “so sad” because he had no predisposition to distrust Portland police prior to this incident but now he is very upset and plans to follow-up with Officer Cioeta’s superiors and file a formal complaint.

We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

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Comments
  • RWL1776 July 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    “He then stopped and backed up very quickly to enter into a parking space (shown in my pictures below). I noticed the impending collision, so pedaled hard,”….

    Wait a minute, the cyclist rode TOWARDS the car as it backed up. Why not stop on your bike instead of moving towards the impending impact location?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

      Hey RWL1776,

      If I read his account correctly, the driver of the car had rounded a corner, and then backed up. Mike wasn’t following him when it happened.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • John Lascurettes July 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      It took me a moment to realize what he had described too. But from what I can tell:
      * they’re both traveling the same direction (as stated)
      * car was in front
      * car reached end of parking row and turned right (assuming right but could have worked the other way too)
      * Mike reached the end of the row and there was an empty parking spot on his left
      * Driver at his right started backing up into the parking spot on his left

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    • Spiffy July 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

      he never said that he rode towards the car…

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  • maxadders July 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, that’s some extremely petty cowardice from the Camaro driver and, unfortunately, PPB too. Shame on both.

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  • ladyfleur July 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    The look on that girl’s face in the second photo is priceless.

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  • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Was there a front plate? You could have, alternatively, gotten the VIN.

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  • Ethan July 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Covering up the plate would not look good in court. OR or WA plate?

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    • are July 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      some state that does not require a front plate

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      • Kristen July 2, 2013 at 8:55 am

        Oregon requires a front plate. Washington does not. We don’t know where this vehicle is licensed.

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        • JAT in Seattle July 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

          Wash requires 2:

          RCW 46.16A.200 (i) Two identical license plates each containing the license plate number; or (ii) One license plate if the vehicle is a trailer, semitrailer, camper, moped, collector vehicle, horseless carriage, or motorcycle.

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          • Paikikala July 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

            Washington requires two plates, but only the rear needs tags.

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    • Mike Cobb July 2, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Washington: from Vancouver

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  • Mr. C.A.T.S.O.E. (cruising at the speed of eight) July 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    All things considered.. Just thank your lucky stars you weren’t arrested as a “predator” for taking snapshots of what appears to be a minor. LoL Hope you’re not injured, and all turns out OK..

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    • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      You mean a juvenile delinquent encouraged by an almost criminally negligent parent of the year.

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      • JRB July 1, 2013 at 5:34 pm

        What great parenting. Way to teach your child to avoid responsibility for your actions.

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    • q`Tzal July 1, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      From what the Media© have told us about the wanton ways of today’s youth this is statistically likely the least incriminating picture of a teenage woman in some time.

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  • Chris Sanderson July 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    What a bummer!

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  • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Whenever someone is backing up in a car the driver is almost always found at fault because of the obvious lack of visibility. Press it with his insurance to get you back to whole.

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    • q`Tzal July 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      After learning to drive a big rig in the USAF I discovered that I was more than willing to park my car twice as far away if I could pull through to an empty parking space that I wouldn’t have to back out of.

      Plus it burns a few extra calories on the longer walk.

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    • Spiffy July 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

      only if you can prove that they backed up… most people claim they weren’t moving and that you ran into the rear of them…

      although there was one time when somebody claimed that I backed into them at a stop sign after they rear-ended me…

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  • Joseph July 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    My wife and I were treated with similar hostility when we found ourselves in a verbal confrontation with somebody driving a box van who blew through a red light while we were entering a marked crosswalk with a traffic signal in our favor. The Portland Police officer had zero empathy for us nearly being maimed by a non-attentive driver and tried many times to lay the blame on us and even the police report indicated no fault by the driver, “because he didn’t wake up that morning with intent to run us down on a crosswalk” (in officer’s words, although that quote didn’t end up in the report).

    So apparently traffic violence has to be premeditated for several hours for the PPB to care about the vulnerable road users involved.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I guess your bike was “too small” to see out the small rear window of the Camaro … glad a small child was not struck instead. An interesting discussion might occur if this goes to court…when the driver is asked why he instructed his (underage) daughter to obscure the license plate vs. the driver doing it.

    Given the mental outlook of the one PPB officer…you should be glad they did not ticket you for leaving the scene of a crash.

    And private streets…such as parking lots are an interesting case study in traffic operations and safety…there is often little traffic data on these obiquitous facilities that make up up to 30% of our urban spaces. If you can get the CCTV tape for the parking lot it might make for an interesting YouTube post.

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  • bean July 1, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Was there a front license plate?

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    • bean July 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      Whoops, sorry! Slow on the draw! You all are fast!

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  • Paul July 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    If I remember correctly, it’s pretty rare for a police department to assign fault and issue citations for an accident occurring on private property like the Home Depot parking lot. Does anyone have experience to the contrary?

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    • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      You might be right but civil law still applies and it’s clear who would have to pay in this case.

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  • Paul July 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    That girl is like “Get away from MY Camaro!”… I bet she’s going to claim driving priviledges now on daddy’s car, if not outright inherit it.

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  • Case July 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    When I saw the second image of her on the FB I thought it was a joke.

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  • younggods July 1, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    You just can’t trust the police to do anything right.

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    • Editz July 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      He was just ticked that his evening donut break was interrupted by a pesky citizen.

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  • daisy July 1, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    So this guy doesn’t want you to know his license plate number, but he ends up with photos of his daughter on BikePortland. Nice going, Dad.

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  • Mike Cobb July 1, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    RWL1776: John and Jonathan are correct. It was a very swift move. After traveling around the perimeter of the parking lot ahead of me, he was suddenly backing up quickly (10-15MPH AT LEAST) to park backwards next to a parked car containing daughters and an adult woman (maybe wife/mom). The move was really aggressive in a high torque car…it reminded me of how I ride my Ciöcc when I’m full of good coffee, in a big hurry, and there’s no traffic around. It’s not advisable to guess mindset and motives, but it certainly appeared as though he thought he was alone in a lonely corner of the parking lot and was focussed on a rendez-vous with family, not the remote possibility that someone on a bicycle might be anywhere near. The shock on his face aligns with this guess.

    Washington plate in the rear. No plate in the front – which his daughter forgot about when she raced to the front of the car when I checked for a front plate. She actually blocked the Chevy “bowtie” logo from my view before her dad assured her that there was no problem with me viewing or photographing it.

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  • Mike Cobb July 1, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    RWL1776: I want to add that the dynamics of space and time in this event were somewhat perfect for causing an inattentive driver to strike me. I was not tailgating – he backed up from adjacent to the parking spaces aligned E-W in the N-S parking lane 15-20 yards, to a parking spot aligned N-S on the far side of the E-W parking lane (need a diagram!) Our very modest proximity became dangerous proximity in a hurry.

    I happen to have a history as a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor. I’ve taught many bike Ed classes through the League: First “Road I”, then the evolved “Traffic Skills 101″. These classes involve on-bike evasive maneuver training: “rock dodge”, “instant turn”, and “quick stop”. I have internalized these skills….consequently, although I’ve been car-free since 1995, with bikes providing the overwhelming majority of my car-free transport, including LOTS of professional courier work, prior to yesterday, I’ve only made serious contact with a car once: last year, the owner of the coffee shop near Velo Cult simply right-turned directly into me, while I was traveling in an unbroken bike lane.

    Soooo- I want you to know that it was with some level of confidence that I chose acceleration as my not-quite-adequate evasive maneuver yesterday.

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    • wsbob July 1, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Backing up a motor vehicle involves more inherent risk than driving one forward. That in no small part, is likely why commercial vehicles are equipped with horns and I think sometimes, lights, activated when a motor vehicle has to be backed up.

      Especially in a crowded parking lot, the high-speed backup maneuver is not responsible thing to do, but even in a comparatively less hazardous situation, there’s probably few legitimate reasons to be backing a motor vehicle up at high-speed. Might be worthwhile to check out Oregon statutes for careless, or reckless driving…see if they may apply here.

      Fortunately, you only got a little skinned up, traumatized…maybe some bike damage. This type of driver error could have resulted in a far more serious collision.

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  • Dave Miller July 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Sorry that happened, Mike. Asshole cops really suck.

    I wanted to pass along to others that snapping photos at an accident can be a good idea. I got hit by a car. Driver was friendly at the scene, but when it came time to settle up later, she wasn’t cooperative. Her insurance company bought me a new bike because I sent them photos of the scene: my bike, the scratched car, and the driver herself standing on the sidewalk. I also sent an accident report which you can create on your own without the police. Forms are on the web.

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    • CaptainKarma July 1, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      I’ve been advised by police before that people OFTEN change their attitudes once away from the situation, reversing any previous civility.

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  • jollydodger July 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Yeah…he saw you in his rear-view and was trying to get to “his” spot before you passed or were “in his way”…his ego or ‘need for speed’ almost killed you. Press charges and sue. One more example will go a long way in adjusting not only his insurance rates, but also future parking lot user behavior, one would hope. Glad you’re alright Mike.

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  • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    It looks like the father was trying to impress his wife and daughters in the van with his midlife crisis muscle car.

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    • Sunny July 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Got to pay to play. This was recklessness akin to a teen trying to impress his friends.

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  • A July 1, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Officer Cioeta should be relegated to bike patrol for the next twelve months. Not as punishment but as education.

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  • Chris Mealy July 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Cops drive muscle cars all day long. People on bikes look like ants to them.

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  • GlowBoy July 1, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Unfortunate that blocking the license plate is not illegal. I do wonder, though, whether it might constitute Obstruction of Justice if the case went to court. In any event, driving without a visible license plate IS illegal, and sooner or later they have to leave the lot.

    And like any other attempt to conceal evidence, trying to hide the plate would look REALLY bad in court. One thing I’ve learned about the legal system is that even when things don’t go to court, ALL out-of-court negotiations are heavily weighted by what wouldhappen in court.

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    • chucklehead July 2, 2013 at 9:39 am

      You can always take a photo of the VIN in the windshield.

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  • one who has been hit before July 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    I think it is always advisable to call the police after any collision with a car and to tell them that you think you may be injured no matter how small that injury might be. Otherwise you will get no response, or worse you end up in a situation like this where you aren’t the one reporting the accident so they take the driver’s side. You can always decide later that your injuries are minor but once you say you aren’t hurt and then realize you are post adrenaline you are in a bad position.

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  • CaptainKarma July 1, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    The hiding-the license plate photo looks like a FB meme waiting to happen…

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  • One Less :( July 2, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Thought that this was a funny story about this lovely officer Cieotta. Seems he cannot even detain an unarmed man! I truely wonder what some of these cops are thinking when they respond to an incident. I was hit by a rock thrown from a car when I lived in Eugene, got the plate number and called the cops, even had a decent idea of what they chump looked like. The cop that reponded told me that I was ok and that kids sometimes do this kind of stuff. They found the ‘kids’, some 17 years olds, but failed to press any charges until I pushed the issue with higher-ups.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/09/portland_man_accused_of_aggrav.html

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  • esther c July 2, 2013 at 12:09 am

    Perhaps blocking the license plate is not illegal but he is required by law to give exchange information with you.

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  • meh July 2, 2013 at 6:23 am

    You always have the right issue a traffic citation against a person and the police MUST follow through.

    Citation Issuance by Private Persons (860.10)
    ORS 153.058 allows private persons the right to commence citation issuance proceedings in traffic matters. When a private person is adamant about issuing a Z-Cite to another person and has the information necessary to identify both the offender and his/her vehicle, members will:
    a. Complete a Special Report stating the allegation, the offending vehicle, the names and vital identifying information of all involved parties, as well as their statement. In some cases, members may conduct brief investigations to determine the name of the alleged violator.
    b. Complete a Z-Cite, leaving the court time appearance, date and signature spaces blank.
    c. Direct the complaining person to appear at the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office Traffic Department, Multnomah County Courthouse, 7 to 14 days after the date of investigation in order to swear to, and sign the Z-Cite.
    d. Send all copies of the Z-Cite, along with a copy of the Special Report of the incident, to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office Traffic Department.

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    • Babygorilla July 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      I don’t think traffic citations can be issued for incidents on private property like parking lots.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • ughhh July 2, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Just because you are white doesn’t mean you can trust the police.

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  • Todd Hudson July 2, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Sorry you had to deal with this, Mike. I’m glad you’re not injured!

    And I’ll keep your cider safe!

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  • Brian E July 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Looks like they lifted the hatch on the other car so you couldn’t get that license plate either. Sort of backfired in regards to concealing their identity.

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  • jeff July 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

    10:1 chance they’re from Vancouver…

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    • Mike Cobb July 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      ding ding ding! The the 98661, Vancouver, Washington

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  • Mike July 2, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Take a picture of the VIN. It’s clearly visible through the windshield by the driver’s rear view mirror.

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  • Zaphod July 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

    +1 in support of you Mike. Police hostility should not be tolerated in a civilized society.

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    • lazyofay July 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

      …”we’re living in pieces,
      I want to live in peace…
      Society is a hole.”
      sonicyouth

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  • Craig Harlow July 2, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Not sure how common it is among PPB, but I had a similar experience last year with an officer, ref. Jonathan’s story from October–immediately hostile and condescending toward me (on my bike) when I reported a driver menacing me with his car, but then the officer changed his tune when I started name-dropping (a-la Eileen Brady, not so much):

    http://bikeportland.org/2012/10/19/ask-bikeportland-should-i-report-road-rage-or-should-i-just-let-it-go-79087

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  • Red Hippie July 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Washington Plates: Priceless. When ever I see someone rolling with washington plates downtown I give them a wide berth. There is a real anti-bike/conservative bent to many of the folks in Vantucky, but it is interesting that they all come over the river to get that tax-free shopping in.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

    • lazyofay July 2, 2013 at 11:29 am

      I thinks there is a real anti-bike slant all over the country..
      Just go east of the 80′s in Portland, and it doesnt differ much from “Vantucky”.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Charley Gee July 2, 2013 at 9:53 am

    ORS 811.700(1)(A)(c) requires a driver to give the registration number of a vehicle involved in a collision with property damage.

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  • A.K. July 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

    The kid looks like a brat, just like her dad!

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  • q`Tzal July 2, 2013 at 10:11 am

    A place like Home Depot should have video cameras that may have caught some of this incident.

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    • Mike Cobb July 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      They’re working with me to secure the footage.

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  • kww July 2, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Sounds like the camaro driver had some connections with PPB. Time to file an internal affairs report on Officer Cioeta .

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • Donna July 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Just what the human race needs; more people raising their children to be feral animals with an overblown sense of entitlement. Thank you, Mike, for not letting this drop. At the very least those girls need to see there are consequences for their father’s morally bankrupt actions.

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