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Man on a bike is tackled, then tasered by Portland Police

Posted by on June 11th, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Photo from the scene at SE 7th and Alder
last night.
(Photo: Ian Stude)

A Portland man says he was tackled, pushed off his bike, and then tasered repeatedly by a Portland Police officer in Southeast Portland last night.

The Portland Police Bureau, in a written statement about the incident, say that Phil Sano (a.k.a. “Rev Phil”) did not have a front light on his bicycle and that he refused to stop when officers requested.

The incident occurred around 9:30pm on SE 7th Street, just north of SE Morrison Ave. Phil Sano says he was riding along and felt cold, so he went to zip up his jacket. Then, in an email he sent me just hours after the incident, he wrote,

“Across the street a man in all black shouted at me and started walking my way. I stopped pedaling, but didn’t stop because my hands were not on my brakes. He then sprinted, lunged and tackled me. I then scuffled to separate him and stood apart from him in a defensive position.”

Then, Sano says, he was tasered several times.

Phil Sano in April 2008.
(Photo © J. Maus)

“I felt a sharp sting in my back and heard a repetitive clicking. I turned around to see that I was being tasered!”

At that point, Sano maintains he still did not know what was going on and he repeatedly asked the officers to explain what he had done wrong. At that point, Sano says two officers were holding him down and he could still feel the taser charge flowing into his back.

“I was still freaked out and yelled again, why are you shooting me?”

Sano says the cops yelled for him to “get down”, but that he still had no idea who was accosting him. He wrote, “It was pretty dark and they were wearing all black without any sort of shiny badge…. They looked kinda’ like cops, but generally cops do not tackle bikers unless it is Critical Mass.”

According to Sano, he was tasered “point blank” in the chest and the lower back and that he began to “spasm out of control as the surge of electricity involuntarily constricted” his muscles.

“…the cop took two steps after him, grabbed him by the shirt, yanked him off the bike, ran hum up the sidewalk and slammed him against the wall and then right away started tasing him.”
–Diana Spartis (she witnessed the entire incident)

After pleading repeatedly for them to stop, Sano says they continued and that, “without question, I could tell they enjoyed seeing me become so helpless, so weak. It was humiliating.”

Once the tasering stopped, Sano said he laid in a small puddle of his own urine, breathing irregularly and “seething with rage”.

“I can still feel their knee on my neck as I write this, but even then I knew they were in the wrong… really, really fucking wrong.” He added, “There was no cause for such violence; I was not harming anyone and I made sure that everyone within earshot knew it.”

Sano says that all the while, a barb from the taser remained lodged in his chest. Luckily, he remembers, a passing ambulance heard him screaming, stopped on the scene, and removed the electrode from his chest. Sano says that the EMT, “was very concerned” that his speeding heart rate would not slow down.

Once everything calmed down, Sano says the cops told him that he was stopped because he didn’t have a front light.

Sano admits he didn’t have his front light on his bike, because someone had stolen the cradle it attaches to. He says the cops found his light in his fannypack a few minutes later.

According to Sano’s recollection of the incident, he heard Officer Smith say, “You should have stopped when I told you to. Then none of this would be necessary.”

A written statement just released by the Portland Police Bureau’s Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz says that the officers were in uniform and were dealing with another woman and had “turned on their lights to alert traffic while they talked to her.”*

Then, writes Schmautz, they saw Sano roll by without a light and, “One of the officers told Sano to stop, but Sano ignored him.” Here is the rest of Schmautz’s statement:

A photo of where one of the
tasers entered Sano’s body.
(Photo courtesy Phil Sano)

“The officer, then reached out to stop Sano and they began to struggle. Sano refused to comply with any of the officers orders and continued to resist until additional officers arrived. The officers attempted to Taser Sano, but it was ineffective because of Sano’s clothing.

Sano was eventually arrested and taken to jail. Sano apparently admitted he had been drinking, but was not given field sobriety tests because the officers were not arresting him for DUII. FYI, the officers checked Sano’s history and learned that the Police Bureau had given Sano a warning for a bike light and a free bike light in the past.”

_________

Diana Spartis, a 28 year-old Sellwood resident, was being cited for not having a light on her bike when the incident took place. On the phone with me this morning, she said Officer Smith was telling her about the importance of having a light when Sano rode by on the other side of the street.

Spartis says the Officer noticed Sano also didn’t have a front light then yelled at him to stop. She then told me, “He [Sano] didn’t stop immediately, and the cop took two steps after him, grabbed him by the shirt, yanked him off the bike, ran him up the sidewalk and slammed him against the wall and then right away started tasing him.”

Sartis recollects that she was “maybe 50 feet away” and says, “I did not see him [Sano] do anything physical to the cops… he wasn’t cooperating fully, but he also wasn’t doing anything that should have provoked them that much. He was screaming, ‘no! no!, why are you doing this?'”

_________

The two officers involved in the incident were Officers Erin Smith and Ron Hoesly. Both are members of the Traffic Division.

I have no knowledge of Officer Smith other than this report from a Critical Mass ride back in February of 2005.

riding along with Officer Hoesly

Officer Hoesly in August 2006.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Officer Hoesly is a motorcycle cop. Back in August of 2006 I joined Officer Hoesly for a ride-along. I frequently see Hoesly around town and he is always friendly and congenial.

Hoesly and Smith initially charged Sano with Resisting Arrest, Attempted Escape III, and Disorderly Conduct. He was also cited for not having a front light (ORS 815.280) and Failure to Obey a Police Officer (ORS 811.535).

(UPDATED*) At his arraignment at the Justice Center in downtown Portland a few hours ago, Sano says the clerk told him he had been given a “no-charge”. *According to a source who is a lawyer that means (for whatever reason) the case is not going forward, but the charges can brought back to life at a later date. My source says this could be an indication that either the police or the DA’s office didn’t think they could prove, or didn’t want to try to prove, the charges.

This isn’t the first time Sano has had run-in with the police. During the 2006 World Naked Bike Ride, Sano was involved in an altercation with an off-duty police officer who was the passenger in a motor vehicle that was being held up during the ride. Sano alleged that the vehicle’s driver tried to run him over.

In that case, Sano was charged with several misdemeanors (including Criminal Mischief and Disorderly Conduct) and faced 2 1/2 years in jail. The case was ultimately dismissed and Sano was set free.**

(This incident is being discussed on the Zoobomb Forum and in the Portland Bike Forums.)

========
(*Note: I added a part of the Police statement that mentioned the Officer’s vehicle lights being on several hours after I initially posted the story.

**I added information about Sano’s Naked Ride trial at 10:23pm on Wednesday night.

UPDATE: The Oregonian has quoted another Police spokesperson as saying they didn’t taser Sano until he became “combative”. Read that story here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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brewcaster
Guest

Disgusting

Kronda
Guest

Holy crap, that is scary. Hope you\’re healing up (physically and emotionally) from this Rev. Excessive force anyone?

Grimm
Guest

PPB new bike policy: Don\’t have a light and we\’ll beat the f*ck out you.

Seriously, if large make in black yelled in a confronting way at me I would probably break in a sprint. Its not like bikers are the type to be armed, why did two officers taser him multiple times?

My sympathy goes out to Rev Phil. Heal up. Im no legal expert but I would try to seek legal action for excessive use of force.

gabriel amadeus
Guest

Seriously? How can all those charges stem from not having a front light? A scenario which had a completely plausible story, I\’ve had my light/clamp stolen several times.

Tackled, tasered, and a knee in the back? Serving and Protecting? No thank you, I\’m better off without the police force from the sounds of it.

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

Looks like business as usual w/ the PPD.

Sue the bastards, Phil.

Grimm
Guest

Sorry for the misspelling in #3. Make = Male.

At any point before the tasering did the PPB in any way clarify they were police? Shouting \”Stop, police!\” is a lot different that \”Hey, Stop!\”.

poser
Guest
poser

is this Portland or Singapore?

\”…we thought that riding without a front light might be dangerous, so we decided to tackle, beat and taser you until you wet yourself. Young man, the alternative could have been much worse – consider yourself lucky.\”

I think these fellas are missing the point of the whole no-front-light law. what do you think?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”At any point before the tasering did the PPB in any way clarify they were police? \”

from my conversations with phil, it took him a while to realize they were police and that fact added to his confusion upon being pushed from his bike.

Me2
Guest
Me2

Can anyone confirm that the Cops ID\’d themselves as police? All 3 accounts seem to indicate that the Police did not identify themselves as such before going after Phil.

If I\’m riding along at night and someone yells at me to stop I\’m likely to ignore them. If someone yells \”this is the police, stop,\” then I\’m likely to comply.

This is downright scary and it sounds like a few words could have avoided this entire incident.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

It must be summer, the Police are harassing cyclists again.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

This is absolutely disgusting. I\’m scared of cops in Portland– why? Because their actions turn routine stops into violent confrontations that often turn deadly. This could easily become another James Chasse. Ever parked outside of a bar or movie theater and forgot to remove your light, only to find it stolen minutes later? Prepare to have an unaccountable, bureaucracy-protected thug assault you and fire harmful and potentially lethal weapons at you. The PPB is a disgrace to honest law enforcement everywhere.

Donna
Guest
Donna

My goodness, it looks like Officer Hoesly got carried away and forgot he had a witness standing right there! Too bad for Officer Hoesly…

My best to Rev. Phil.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

SO OUTRAGEOUS!

The link Johnatan gave for a report on Critical Mass in 2005 says Officer Smith is on camera saying \”We (Portland Police) work for ourselves, not for you\” – that to me explains a lot. These guys act as gang members; Portland Police seems to have an internal culture of being above the law.

This is not an isolated incident. Anyone who has been following local news knows tha PPD is brutal, violent and abusive.

What are going to do about it???!!!!

eric
Guest
eric

If you would like to email the chief of police to voice your opinion:

chiefsizer@portlandpolice.org

Martha R
Guest
Martha R

Serve and protect, eh? I\’m sure Phil was much safer being yanked off his bike, tased, and sent to jail than he would have been if they\’d allowed him to ride without a light. After all, they\’d already given him one light. Can\’t have those dangerous unlit scofflaws pedaling around our streets — who knows where they\’ll end up. And what was he doing wearing all those clothes? Was he purposely trying to make the taser ineffective?

Seriously, though, this is disgusting. The lull in police incidents of late had me hoping that the bureau was starting to clean up its act. Guess not. Good luck, Phil!

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

maybe the cops should be spending their time busting drunks in cars then people on bikes. I\’ve ridden at night numerous times without a light, fully aware that I may receive a ticket but a beating? You have to be kidding me!

Jessy
Guest

I gotta say, as a female rider, if I was riding along in the middle of the night and someone yelled at me, I don\’t think I\’d stop either. Unless it was really obvious that it was a cop, but it sounds like for whatever reasons that wasn\’t apparent.

In any case, I agree that this sounds a bit excessive… What a shame.

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

They messed with the wrong guy. Uh oh.

bDave
Guest
bDave

Thanks for reporting this Jonathan, you are the promptest! Nothing but side streets for the summer for this Buffalo.

J
Guest
J

This sounds eerily similar to what my friend and I experienced a couple years ago riding without a light. We didn\’t get tackled, he essentially tried to run us over (swooped about 2 feet in front of us actually half jumping the curb in the process).

That\’s Portland, what can you say?

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

We need to organize a BIKE RIDE/PROTEST to City Hall, to PPB, demanding that the Chief of Police step down!!

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

that is unphucking believable…
I hope this guy finds a good lawyer and sues the police burean…AGAIN.

a running tackle for a guy without a light on his bike? are you freaking serious? these are the people charged with \”protecting\” us?

so much for the changes associated with the new head of the traffic division…

next they\’ll start running us all over with their squad cars or motorcycles in order to issue tickets…

how \’bout this, copper? you and I on a bike at the foot of the west hills…last fat ass to the top pretends to stop being an officer of the law.

freakin\’ joke.

BURR
Guest
BURR

typical dumbass PPB behavior that\’s probably going to cost the city\’s taxpayers a pile of money when the city settles the lawsuit they deserve for this.

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

I might also say, I\’ve been noticing more and more patients in the hospital with taser injuries…

Graham
Guest
Graham

It\’s nice that Portland has a platinum rating and all, but with this police force, and its attitude toward cyclists, we really don\’t deserve it. And I\’m not anti-cop! I\’ve gladly testified in court on behalf of a cop who tasered an armed assailant, and who was totally justified in doing so. However, I\’ve also ridden – safely, legally, and in control – in a Critical Mass in which I felt like a sheep surrounded by a pack of ticket-happy wolves.

It\’s like they get off on the fact that cyclists are so easy to catch, and – in this case – tackle.

My theory is that there are some cops who genuinely want to protect and serve, some that just want to carry guns and tell people what to do, and some that are a combination of both.

Here\’s hoping Sam Adams does a bit more as mayor to protect us from our own police force.

GG
Guest
GG

holy crap

This past Sunday Officer Smith pushed me off of my bike. I was crossing NW 15th on Marshall at a block sized gap in the floats from the parade. He was supposedly controlling the intersection, but he wasn\’t actually doing anything to communicate that it was forbidden to cross the street. He ran into the intersection and knocked me to the ground. Officer Hoesly joined after I jumped back up and they proceeded to write me a ticket for \”Failure to obey a police officer\”.

I haven\’t figured out what I should/need to do about this yet aside from showing up at the court date and contesting. If any of you litigious types have advice I would be grateful. I assumed this was some bizarre one-off experience, but clearly officer Smith is angry, violent, has a problem with cyclists and needs to be dealt with. Please let me know if you\’d like to contact me with advice.

Sorry your experience was even worse Phil.

Graham
Guest
Graham

#18: \”They messed with the wrong guy. Uh oh.\”

🙂

Sky
Guest
Sky

I\’ve also had an incident with the PDX popo
that wound up really bad. The best part was one officer maced four of his mates at one point. As for myself \”oops! Sorry we got the wrong guy\”.

So I can relate.

Ron Hoesly on the other hand I\’ve known from the time we were both very young. He and his family are the kindest of people. The type you can only hope for as neighbors. In fairness I haven\’t seen Ronny in years but, at the same time it seems very unlike him to do any thing malicious. And I can\’t stand seeing anyones name being trashed without knowing the whole story.

Best wishes to all involved.

Darren
Guest
Darren

Will our mayor-elect please step forward and stop the madness?

Diana
Guest
Diana

Re: # 8
No, the officers did not identify themselves as cops. One just jogged into the middle of the street and yelled \”Stop.\” It seems pretty obvious Rev. Phil was not purposely evading a police officer; he was going so slow that the cop was able to take a few steps after him and pull him off his bike. Last time I checked, it is really easy for someone on a bike to outpace a person on foot if they want to.

AndyK
Guest
AndyK

Dear Chief Sizer,

I read a story on Bikeportland.org about two of your officers pulling a man off a bicycle, throwing him against a wall and repeatedly tazering him to the point that he urinated himself, all for the very serious crime of not having a bike light. As a daily bike rider (and someone who has had a light stolen from me while I was away from my bike) I find this type of action on the part of the police department totally inexcusable. Is it really a policy of your department to brutalize and cause potentially serious harm (Tazers kill many people every year) to a person who is RIDDING A BIKE WITHOUT A HEAD LIGHT? If this is the message you and your department would like to send to all the cyclists in this city, namely that if you as a cyclist violate even the most minor of laws the nearest police officer can and will hurt you up to and beyond the point of self urination. If this is your message and you want this type of police behavior to be used, then do not reprimand these officers. If on the other hand you feel that the officers in question where out of line and that they violated protocol, then I strongly suggest that the offending officers are dismissed and reprimanded. Also I would like to note my favorite part of the story: The calm and respectful way the offending officer approached the situation. Especially where the clearly marked officer clearly identified himself.

Lastly: considering the reaction of the police in this situation is this the type of treatment I and my girlfriend can expect to receive when confronted with your officers? If I can be assaulted and tazed to the point that I piss myself, then I feel I would be far safer without the service and protection. I appreciate the effort, but considering the expected reaction, I think I\’ll be safer without the light.

Laura
Guest
Laura

I wish the cops would be so vigilant with folks who drive their cars w/no lights after dark. And the idiots who drive around neighborhood streets with their brights or fog lights on, blinding every biker, pedestrian, dog and cat in their midst.

Rev. Phil…get well soon!

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

I imagine there\’s more to this story than we have heard.

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

Just emailed the cheif
do we got Sam\’s email handy?
anyone else we should bug on this?
phone numbers?

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

@anonymous #33

I imagine there\’s more to this story than we have heard.

Oh do please fill us in with your eye witness account.

Oh wait, you weren\’t there were you? Too bad at least one completely unrelated person present at the scene backs up Rev. Phil\’s story.

eugene
Guest
eugene

The only way this will ever change is through protest with specific goals:

1) The firing of Officer Smith. That\’s a difficult battle, but a necessary one – the only thing these police will ever understand is losing their job. They are absolutely convinced that they will never be fired no matter how many laws they break.

2) Some lesser form of punishment for Officer Hoesly. He may be a nice guy, but he should have stepped in to enforce the law, even against his fellow officer. Even nice guys need to learn the importance of following the rules.

3) Clear rules that mandate police announce themselves *as police* before using physical force, against anyone, in any situation. Again, this must be backed up by credible consequences, including the loss of one\’s job.

4) Clear rules that the PPB may not ever use a Taser merely to subdue someone. There must be a threat to the officers or to the public – a clear and immediate threat – for a taser to be involved. Again, misuse of a taser should also be a firing offense.

Unless Portlanders demand EACH point, nothing will ever change. So it\’s up to you – take action now to prevent this from happening again, or sit on your hands, hope for the best, and get momentarily outraged again when some other innocent person is attacked by police terrorists.

Police feel they are above the law. They must be reminded that they are not.

Mister Viddy
Guest

Sadly even with the election of Good Sam this type of behavior will continue.

Snowflake Seven
Guest
Snowflake Seven

I have been working really hard to persuade my family and friends that cycling is a safe alternative. Gas prices have been helping. But something like this, it shuts down any conversation. I am sad and scared.

This should never, ever happen. Not even once. Isn\’t there all sorts of rules of engagement or something that prevent this from even coming close to happening?

Matthew Denton
Guest
Matthew Denton

Okay, I\’ll admit that I\’ve said in the past that I wished that the police would write tickets to bicyclists without headlights. It isn\’t safe, and it makes the rest of us look bad…

However, \”tickets\”, not \”almost kill them.\” If the cop had seen a car with a burned out headlight that didn\’t stop to a \”hey stop\”, they wouldn\’t have shot it full of holes, would they? (Ohh, wait, they do do that.)

And really, the police have to identify themselves. If people get randomly tackled, they are either going to run away or fight back, that is what people do. You can\’t charge a person with resisting arrest if the person isn\’t aware that the cop isn\’t actually a mugger…

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Here\’s a question.

If a car were driving down the road without its lights on, would cops have run it off the road right off the bat like that?

No freakin way. Another example of the cops seeing cyclists as lesser citizens in need of a lessen.

Metal Cowboy
Guest

From this account there appears to have been some terrible judgement by the officers, which I hope costs them dearly and makes and example of this sort of behavior.
Believe me, if some yells stop at night frrom the sidewalk, I\’m not stopping unless I hear the word Police out of their mouths and even then it\’s going to take moment to stop and access the situation… but if this officer was able to pull him off the bike he wass not fleeing – all bets would be off at that moment for me. I\’m disgusted by this whoel thing. No one needed to be tasered. Get better Rev. Get better and even.

bikerinNE
Guest
bikerinNE

This story sucks… PDX is becoming backwards when it comes to law enforcement. I got a citation for smoking on a max platform, and because I despise trimet, i don\’t use it. Well, i had no choice in April but to ride Max, and when i did i stepped off the train at 82nd ave, stepped away from everyone else and lit a smoke. I took one drag and a cop gave me a ticket. I was standing right in front of a sign the listed all the \”Prohibited Activities,\” and it didn\’t list smoking as one of the those. I pointed out to the officer about the lack of a no smoking sign in the area, and he said, \”It\’s at the top of the stairs.\” I reminded him that i just got off of the train and didn\’t come from that direction. Long story short, i took pictures of the area, sent my ticket in before the due date, and the court sent me a letter in the mail stating i needed to pay my fine, and that they increased the fine from 94 dollars to 317 dollars.

Portland is a great bicycling community, and miss the seen. But with stories like this, and all the crime and bad policing, like ticketing someone for smoking in an outdoor setting away from everyone, and yet can\’t stop the beatings of innocent people on the train, drug deals and shootings, there going after the small money makers, instead of doing the hard labor. They\’re going for the small easy fish. Thats why i moved the hell away.

Keep riding Portland, F the police.

Get well soon Rev. Phil

Joe
Guest
Joe

These type of cops make me feel so happy and free.. bunch of crap! what happened to protect and serve?

zap them i say!

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

The Portland Police are organizationally descended from people who were hired to crack the skulls of striking workers.

Thugs then, and apparently thugs now.

Hey PoPo. I know you\’re one of the good cops out there. But I gotta tell you, if it bothers you that more people don\’t show appreciation and respect, THIS is a perfect example of why. Don\’t freakin blame us. You guys reap what you sow.

bikerinNE
Guest
bikerinNE

#44

Good Point. Wasn\’t there an article when POPO parked his car in a bike lane, and he was ashamed at how peopled dealt with his vehicle in it (the bike lane.) Well i\’m ashamed with the Portland Police. The police officers need to be more easily fired and prosecuted. You, the fucking police, hide behind a bull shit union that has no conscience. Shame on YOU!

Law enforcement officers are supposed to use good judgment. However, being able to run after a cyclist and removing the person from the cycle tells me that the rider wasn\’t fleeing the scene. If i was a cop and noticed the rider casually riding along and attempted to reach the person, and did, that should say something. If, while attempting, to reach the person on the bicycle, and they speed up, or stand up on the pedals to accelerate, then maybe use of force might be necessary.

Tesla
Guest
Tesla

Schmautz writes that the taser did not affect him due to clothing- the photo is proof that the self-serving statement of the police is a lie. If the barb got to his skin, he certainly did get the juice.

felix
Guest

I can\’t imagine why no one respects the police. To disgusted to make a post without just going off….

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

I would love to see what these two Officers involvement with past CM rides or if any of the bike messenger have tickets from them. It seems to me that a lot of the motorcycle cops have a vendetta of sorts against cyclists. Even when they are escorting something like the Fat Tire Fest\’s bike parade they are rude and ride with little regard for cyclists.

The thing that gets me about this is that you would think as motorcyclists themselve they would realize who they need to watch out for, people in cars and trucks. They are just as vulnerable to right-hooks, left-hooks, and \”I didn\’t see hims\” but for some reason they tend to pick on cyclists. Maybe it is because there is less of a chance of getting hurt, i means how many of us cyclists are gun-carrying thugs. Typical bully behavior.

JC
Guest

Wow- crazy. I understand (somewhat) from both sides. I am a police reserve for my city and know what it\’s like to be in situations like this but by the sounds of it, this was excessive. My brother is in law enforcement also and he told me his taser would record audio (and I think video too) when fired. Would be interested to know if the PPD has taser cams and what was really said while he was being tased.

Wishing you a speedy recovery.
Jeff
Biking Duluth

matchu
Guest
matchu

This is unjust and inexcusable. Having been assaulted by strangers while riding around at night, I would not stop hearing someone say *only* \”Stop!\” If they had said \”Police!\” then that would be a different story. This is repulsive behavior on the part of these particular officers. It is disgusting conduct. I\’ll leave it at this for now.