Both parties admit overreacting in Hummer road rage case

The blue Hummer that led to the suspect.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The two parties involved with a road-rage incident in Northwest Portland back in January now want to put the whole thing behind them.

On the afternoon of January 21, Collin Whitehead was riding his bike when claimed he was “assaulted, threatened with a softball bat and punched in the face” by a man who had been driving a Hummer H2. The incident occurred in broad daylight and the man in the Hummer took off before police arrived.

Whitehead claimed the attack was provoked because he spit from his bike and the alleged assailant thought the spit was intended for his brand new Hummer H2.

The police launched an investigation, and thanks to a tip from a BikePortland reader they found the Hummer in downtown Portland a few days later and were able to track down the suspect.

Now, the two parties have issued a “Mutual Statement” about the incident saying that they both acted “improperly”. The statement (below) was released to me today by lawyer Mark Ginsberg, who was brought in as a mediator in the case:

Mutual Statement concerning events of January 21, 2008

Both parties overreacted. The cyclist improperly expressed his frustration by spitting at a parked Hummer as he rode by. The owner of the Hummer, in frustration, followed the cyclist and initiated a physical altercation.

They mutually agree this is not socially acceptable behavior and both parties expect more of themselves and of the citizens of Portland.

Collin Whitehead, speaking to me by phone this morning, admitted he spit in the direction of the Hummer (“out of frustration” because it was blocking half of a lane) but said he didn’t think it actually landed on the vehicle.

Whitehead also confirmed that as part of the mediation process, the Hummer driver made a nominal payment to Whitehead in addition to an undisclosed amount donated to an environmental non-profit (The Siskiyou Project). According to Whitehead, the Hummer driver agreed to the non-profit donation as long as it wasn’t given to a bike-specific group, so Whitehead gave his payment to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

“I’m very happy this issue was resolved,” said Whitehead, “thanks to the vigilance of the bikeportland.org community and the work above and beyond by Officers Robert Pickett and Dan Andrew at the Portland Police Bureau.”

Whitehead says the PPB officers made it “their personal interest” to find resolution in the case “without fanning the flames of the bike vs. car mentality.”

In the end, Whitehead seems wiser for the experience saying, “As bikers and drivers, many of us are both, we often need to take a step back from our defensive and sometimes militant positions to achieve solutions.”

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wsbob
wsbob
14 years ago

Seems like a good resolution to this incident. Even the police seemed to handle this one well.

The driver of the Hummer actually having assaulted someone, especially over such a trivial affront, deserves to make some compensation. I only hope it was enough to make an impression on him to improve his behavior in future. I imagine jail time for the driver was considered. Wonder if a psych evaluation for the driver was considered.

Jeff
14 years ago

So, do Hummers actually dissolve when spat upon? Who cares if he spat at a disgraceful vehicle like that? I could understand if he damaged it, but you\’d have to be a third-grader to chase someone down because he didn\’t like your car… didn\’t the anonymous jackass anticipate that everyone in Portland might not love his irresponsible choice of vehicle? Don\’t really get how both parties are equally at fault here.

Cezar
Cezar
14 years ago

\”According to Whitehead, the Hummer driver agreed to the non-profit donation as long as it wasn’t given to a bike-specific group\”

What a shame. For someone to be that much against bikes is a shame. A hummer driver no less.

Carissa Wodehouse
Carissa Wodehouse
14 years ago

Collin,
You\’re awesome.

McAngryPants
14 years ago

I wonder if I\’ll be given this kind of chance when I threaten a motorist with a club after next they inadvertently threaten my life by doing something stupid

DJ Hurricane
DJ Hurricane
14 years ago

In Ray Thomas\’ Pedal Power, he lists commonly committed crimes against bicyclists. In there is ORS 166.065, Harassment, which includes \”[s]ubjecting [another] person to offensive physical contact.\”

Thomas comments that such \”offensive physical contact\” includes \”spitting.\” He also notes \”No injury required; even spilling a liquid that lands on the bicycle will support this charge.\”

If this is correct, spitting on a car would also likely constitute harassment.

McFedUpPants
McFedUpPants
14 years ago

\”Whitehead says the PPB officers made it “their personal interest” to find resolution in the case “without fanning the flames of the bike vs. car mentality.”\”

It\’s a shame this can\’t be said of those posting on this site.

Ron
Ron
14 years ago

While it sounds as if the driver was by far the least irresponsible of the two, this really bums me out — as I recall from the original story the cyclist said very clearly he did not spit upon the vehicle — clearly he was lying then.

Does not even come close to justifying the driver chasing him down and threatening him with severe bodily harm. And I am glad the cyclist has come clean and admitted his part, however small in comparison.

Russ
Russ
14 years ago

If there wasn\’t a mutual statement that said spitting on someones car is the same as charging them with a softball bat and punching them in the face, I\’d be fine with the settlement.

With the statement, best I can feel is that Whitehead is a tool, and if I ever need a lawyer I\’m going to be calling Swanson, Thomas, and Coon.

Ron
Ron
14 years ago

In #8, of course I meant \”most irresponsible\” — stupid double negatives.

Diogo
Diogo
14 years ago

Regardless of the circumstances, spitting on a Hummer is justifiable, as I see it.

It\’s not a matter of Bike X Car, which I think it\’s a senseless conflict to begin with. It\’s not any car – it\’s a Hummer: driving this thing around is offensive and outrageous when we are fighting Global Warming.

toddistic
toddistic
14 years ago

That\’s why slapping a car is better than spitting on it!

Tim
Tim
14 years ago

Sounds like spitting on a car could be illegal (discusting?) but is slapping a car to wake up a driver illegal.
I was crossing the street in the crosswalk with the walk signal, so when a driver on a cell phone looked right at me and nearly drove over my toes, I slapped his window as he went by. Did I do anything illegal?

Ben
Ben
14 years ago

#8, #9, The original post appeared as, “I spit and he thought I spit on his car,” is what the victim wrote.

Not sure how that constitues his being a liar or a tool. Me, I\’ll start carrying some mace.

anonymous
anonymous
14 years ago

Given the thus far unjustified outrage regarding the officer/cyclist altercation yesterday, we cyclists could all stand to learn something from this incident.

First of all, even cyclists lie. It turns out that Whitefield wasn\’t just innocently riding along when he was assaulted. He was an active participant in the altercation. That does not justify the driver\’s response of course.

It is likely that if the incident went down as originally reported, the driver would be charged with assault. He was not. Therefore, the incident probably did not go down as reported.

We would do well to remember that before condemning the officers who allegedly attacked the cyclist yesterday, beating him and tasing him for no reason whatsoever.

There are two sides to every story, even when one side comes from someone who is *not* a cyclist.

Roger
Roger
14 years ago

#15, it appears that in this case, there was a settlement. Now, granted I\’m not an attorney, but to me that means the driver was charged and \”settled\” to reduce or drop the charges. Meaning that of the two participants, by the letter of the law, one of them, the driver, was in the wrong.

Russ
Russ
14 years ago

Anonymous, give it a rest. One guy signed a bullsh*t statement in exchange for cash. If there isn\’t anything more American than that, I can\’t think of it. We\’ll just call it a patriotic act.

Aaron
14 years ago

#12
I had someone chase me down the street and threaten me for slapping a car. Some crazys will chase you for any real or imagined \’attack\’ on their metal box.
I also feel that the Hummer driver is a psycho and got off too easy

jamie
jamie
14 years ago

Rules for Biking in Portland:
1. Always carry a blade: you\’ll never know when you need to \’key\’ some hummer, and then threaten the guy behind the wheel.
2. Be prepared to use the blade.

Trucks
12 years ago

I know this is a bike community but still… The guy must have been working hard to get this hummer. And once you have it, someone else’s spit on it is more than upsetting.
I may be too violent, but I am at the Hummer guy’s side. At least he was not lying to anyone to look as a victim. I would do pretty much the same if the biker would refuse to wipe his spit himself off my H2