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Parents of man threatened in bus driver’s blog post want action

Posted by on August 26th, 2010 at 10:20 am

“He [Christensen] is inciting violence, death threats, essentially begging someone to act violently against another person… Any harm to my son as a result of that language could be construed as a liability on the part of TriMet and on Dan personally.”
— Tom Bennett

The parents of a Paul Higgins, the man who was the subject of the controversial, “Portland! Kill this bicyclist!” blog post written by TriMet bus operator Dan Christensen, feel the situation should have been taken much more seriously.

Higgins’ mom, Judy Bennett, wrote about the situation on her blog last Sunday. After reposting the blog post where Christensen detailed his intentions to “exercise the death option” on her son for his erratic riding behavior, Bennett wrote,
“Freaky, right? Makes you question what sort of person is allowed to drive people around our city in a large vehicle. I’m quite a bit more upset than you might be right now, because the bicyclist he is talking about is my son.”

Bennett likens Christensen’s post to a “a death threat on my child” and says the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is “chomping at the bit for my boy to press charges so this wingnut can be put behind bars where he belongs.” Higgins’ father, Tom Bennett has emailed BikePortland in hopes of keeping the issue alive.

“He [Christensen] is inciting violence, death threats, essentially begging someone to act violently against another person… Any harm to my son as a result of that language could be construed as a liability on the part of TriMet and on Dan personally.”

TriMet put Christensen on administrative leave for the blog post, and he was back on the job one week later. Citing privacy as this is a personnel matter, TriMet will not discuss what, if any other punishment they gave Christensen.

“It’s up to his son. If he [Paul Higgins] comes forward, we’d re-open the investigation and make a charging decision.”
— John Copic, Multnomah County DA’s office

Multnomah County DA John Copic confirms that he has discussed the incident (he declined to speak directly to the “chomping at the bit” claim) with Tom Bennett, but unless Paul Higgins (the victim in this case) decides to press charges, there’s nothing further the DA’s office will do. “It’s up to his son. If he [Paul Higgins] comes forward, we’d re-open the investigation and make a charging decision.” Copic did not comment directly on how the DA feels about the case.

Mr. Bennett echoes his wife’s claims, saying that the DA “feels it’s an actionable offense” but that they won’t do anything without the consent of Higgins.

As for Higgins, Mr. Bennett says his son is in a “live and let live frame of mind” and just wants it to go away (read our Q & A with him).

Mr. Bennett says he feels this situation is emblematic of larger issues. He was amazed at the “strange way” BikePortland readers reacted to the story. “Instead of indignation at a death threat, all I seem to read is minute analysis of the event, precisely what Paul did (lane splitting or running a red) and endless back and forth about the facts” (comments number nearly 200 and are still coming in). Bennett also claims that the TriMet bus operators union had something to do with their light treatment of Christensen. “TriMet seems to be under the spell/control of the union… I mean, this guy still has a job? Doesn’t make sense to me.”

In the end, Mr. Bennett understands that his son is his own man and makes his own decisions. “Paul just wants to shake this guy’s hand, even though both of his parents have an entirely different view on the situation. At some point your child grows up and takes his own path, even though parental instinct screams otherwise… I am not sure we have much more to say about it.. it’s his call.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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NewRiderInPDX
Guest
NewRiderInPDX

I completely agree with the parents. I think the fact that the bus driver literally was asking people to take this poor guy’s life for something that sounds so minuscule is absolutely ridiculous. No one has the right to wish death upon anyone in my opinion. I’m not sure if I would press charges or not but then again if someone wanted me killed for something that stupid I have to question that person’s sanity. I give major props to Paul Higgins for being so forgiving and laid back about the entire thing. That bus driver is freaking crazy.

k.
Guest
k.

This is what happens when we pay too much attention to blogs. Stop it. Everyone.

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

I agree completley with the parents.

dan
Guest
dan

LOL, have to agree with #2 k. Everyone and their mom (literally) seems to have a blog these days.

The bus driver was over the line in calling for people to kill the cyclist, and that is illegal, I believe (inciting violence?).

Still, Paul’s behavior was like someone who drops their candy bar in the lion enclosure at the zoo, and then hops down to retrieve it, making it back up out of the enclosure before becoming a snack due to the lion keeper’s timely efforts to restrain his charges. The lion keeper is (rightfully) angry about the poor decision-making…I would be too.

Not a parent, so don’t necessarily see the parents’ point of view on this, but it seems like their son made a very bad decision, and was lucky to have escaped without injury. I’m guessing from Paul’s “live and let live” attitude that he may understand that.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Maybe Bikeportland should host/moderate an event with Dan and Paul. A kind of Truth and Reconciliation committee. Then we might all learn something about human nature, about traffic, about each other from this rather than (a) dragging it through the courts, or (b) shrugging it off. Just a thought.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

I notice you didn’t quote the part of her post where she says

And if you are walking (or God forbid, bicycling) down the street and a bus passes you, get to safety or the driver may decide to run you down for no reason.

This situation really doesn’t need more drama of this nature. I’m more impressed with Paul’s attitude than his mother’s. He seems to be taking the high road, to the extent that there is one.

J. Swift
Guest
J. Swift

Jonathan Swift, in A Modest Proposal, calls for eating babies lest they be a burden on society. It’s called satire.

I agree that it’s upsetting. Plenty of people didn’t get that Swift was KIDDING, however, as was the driver.

The AG isn’t going to do anything. Sorry, mom. Free speech is free speech, especially in light of the fact that it is satire.

Paul has moved on. Both he and the driver have learned from the experience.

Time to let it go.

NewRiderInPDX
Guest
NewRiderInPDX

I like #5’s response. Get those two together and let’s hug it out.

trail abuser
Guest
trail abuser

The parents are just about as crazy as Christensen. By their logic, we can conclude that she is a raging alcoholic since her blog celebrates her enjoyment of bloody marys. These over-reactive parents will create a huge back lash against their own son as a result of his stupidity in regards to illegal riding. Any reasonable jury can see Dan’s blog was plain venting.

J. Swift
Guest
J. Swift

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.” J. Swift

Is he serious?! Of course not.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Wish I had helicopter parents to come to my defense every time I ride like a jerk and get myself into trouble on the big-bad-interwebs .

Seriously. All the people “involved” in this (self-inserted or otherwise) have way too much time on their hands.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Lucky this came to attention, reminds me of a story at a bike shop guy comes in with a cruiser bike starts raving that he wants to run cyclists off the road with his car, but he claims he a cyclist? hmm

twilliam
Guest

I’ve put the original blog back up:

Find it here.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

What does the bus driver’s mommy have to say?

I say put the two moms on Jerry Springer

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

What a soap opera.

Why is this news? Though I appreciate the thorough follow-up with the DA, I don’t see how this is front page material just because Paul’s parents are still upset. If Paul decides to press charges it will be newsworthy, but until then… parents will be parents, I suppose.

9watts
Guest
9watts

that is creepy. I guess I should say ‘thanks for putting the entry back up’ twilliam but I’m not sure.

What is with this guy?
“You see if talking and dialog solved extreme behavior our jails would be empty. The only thing that works is call for direct action.”

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I say press charges, and let the court system hopefully make an example of this bus driver.

Tri met has neede to beknocked down off of their high horse for a long time, and it is ofcourse true that withthe union, and the hush hush that Tri Met hides under, there are no repercussions for bad bus drivers.

This is an opportunity to do what has been needed for a long time.

Hold Tri Met and their drivers responsible for their actions on OUR streets.

This is just one driver you say?

Well, this is exactly the type of case we need every single bus driver to have on their mind as they drive up and down OUR streets.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Pardon my typos please…

J. Swift
Guest
J. Swift

Dabby, press charges for what?! Look at the end of his original blog entry. He celary says he doesn’t expect anything to happen to the rider. Of course not. He’s writing, not committing a crime.

A psychopath kills.

A frustrated driver rants on a blog, a horrible decision given the modern wide audience.

Just like Swift, again. He calls for eating babies! But this is a joke, a very extreme, ghastly answer to a problem.

The driver used extreme language out of frustration. NWA calls for killing cops. Did they actually take the action? No.

It scares me more that people want the rider to press charges over what someone vented on a blog.

matthew vilhauer
Guest
matthew vilhauer

-what elliot said….

it’s news because it makes good copy?

cyclist acts like a douche… bus driver responds with equal doucheness… this stuff happens daily. enough already!!!

are
Guest

the word is “champing,” not “chomping”

Esther
Guest
Esther

I’m glad that the system is in place that if the VICTIM chose to press charges, he could and would have legal representation. However, I admire and condone his decision (thus far) to try to resolve it informally when the driver has been effectively punished both by his employer and in the public eye. The victim wants to shake the hand of the person who has effectively apologized and (somewhat) recanted his behavior. I don’t know what litigation would accomplish except burdening someone–who has dealt with consequences of his actions–with a criminal history that impacts him throughout the rest of his life.

e
Guest

I agree with his parents and hope he decides to press charges, for everyone’s safety.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

This is definitely “Entertainment Tonight” or “Inside Edition” level news of the bike/transportation world, at best.

Not an insult; simply an observation.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

Everyone should re-read dan’s post #4. He’s spot on.
And yes, too many people have blogs.

yarrrrum
Guest
yarrrrum

Helicopter parents.

Note to self: don’t do this to my kids.

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

@ #19: You have posted this stupid J. Swift analogy three times now. We get your point. And it is inapposite. Dan Christensen threatened a specific person with violence. Also, you do not know that Christensen was “kidding.” He says now that he was, but what is he going to say? Give it up.

And “press charges for what?” Obviously, the DA believes a crime was committed, and I’m guessing he has a better understanding of the Oregon Criminal Code than you do, especially if your understanding of the law is close to your analogy-making ability.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

I am fed up with seeing antibike-nuts threatening cyclists online. Its time to fight this for what it is — a form of hate speech.

I urge Paul to press charges. A brave stance on this now could could save a cyclist’s life in the future.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Elliot #15 and Matt V #20: The fact that it is front page news is simply business. This post will generate a lot of comments. The Q&A

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

ooopps, something went awry. One previous blog post is sitting at 202 comments. Another one is at 165. Another one at 72. My only guess is that more comments = more tangible proof of blog traffic = higher ad revenues.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Jonathan making money for what he does. I appreciate his site quite a bit.

Still, this thing is a soap opera and I cannot wait for it to go away.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Having been raised with a Trek-esque sense of ethics and justice I normally prefer the Rule of Law.
In this instance I just want to lock all the involved parties in a wrestling cage and let them have it out rather than let this turn in to a petty and vindictive grudge match that will waste the precious time and money of our judicial system that could be spent prosecuting crimes that have actually occured.

Unless this is 1984 and Dan Christensen has committed a Thought Crime, in which case, prosecute away!

Brad
Guest
Brad

Best comedy I’ve read all day!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

” “It’s up to his son. If he [Paul Higgins] comes forward, we’d re-open the investigation and make a charging decision.” ” quote from Multnomah County DA John Copic in maus story above.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the DA feels any urgent need to press charges. His concern for the feelings of Paul Higgins and his family related to the controversial blog posting, and a willingness to further investigate and check out the possibility for making a solid case, is commendable.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

J. Swift,

Threatening to kill someone as pointedly as this idiot has, or even threatening to do it and asking others to help
IS A CRIME…….

You can be prosecuted for threatening bodily harm against another.
I believe the crime is compounded when you ask others to help you do it…..

And, Christ, this is a supposed “Public Transportation” employee (I say supposed, cause Tri Met is neither really public, nor looking out for the public)

Even just filing a case against him will be enough to wake up the other supposed “public Transportation” employees.

This is the wake up call that Tri Met needs.

Either that, or take them over and change their ways entirely…..

Where is Metro when you need them to actually fix something….

VeloBusDriver
Guest

Until you have almost killed a cyclist with the 30 ton vehicle you are driving because of the cyclist’s actions, you cannot understand what goes through a bus driver’s mind in these situations. We cyclists can maneuver in ways that allows us to instantly appear in a location you, as a driver, didn’t think possible – a location you were just about to use for a turning maneuver. I’ve got a cycling bozo on my current route who puts his life in danger near my bus at least once a week – thankfully I know to look for him and simply stop until he has passed by.

That said, I obviously can’t condone what Dan wrote – there is no excuse for it and I think that message has been made clear to him. I’m sure he has to walk the straight and narrow from now on. A union can, and should, only protect you so much.

mac
Guest
mac

ummm..couldn’t Higgins also be charged for running a red light, improper passing and some sort of negligent operation?

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

@ #32: “Doesn’t exactly sound like the DA feels any urgent need to press charges.”

Wrong, as usual. The DA cannot build a winning case without Paul’s testimony, no matter how much he wants to. He is necessary to be able to establish key facts; that’s just the way criminal prosecution works. And the only people who know the DA’s intention (since he himself declined to comment) say the contrary.

Your anti-bike bias is showing again, Bob.

WOBG
Guest
WOBG

Note to Jonathan: How about a feature with VeloBusDriver explaining what to watch out for when riding near buses? (Maybe even some how-to video with test pilots, maybe shot in TriMet’s vast bus yard?)

Sounds like he/she has “dual citizenship” that could help prevent stress and collisions and maybe even build bridges.

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

@ #35: “ummm..couldn’t Higgins also be charged for running a red light, improper passing and some sort of negligent operation?”

Um, no. Running a red light isn’t a crime. It’s a “traffic violation.” Big difference. Same for improper passing.

There is a reckless driving crime, but where is the evidence that he was driving recklessly? Before you answer, consider some of the cases raised here where motor vehicle drivers were not charged with that offense.

Philistine
Guest
Philistine

First off, the DA can press charges without the consent of the “victim”. They are not.

Spare @28 says “Its time to fight this for what it is — a form of hate speech.”

Fair enough. Next time you say “cager” I will assume you hate car drivers and have you arrested because fighting HATE includes all hate, even yours.

Do you really want the government to be making these decisions about what you think and whether or not you are allowed to think it? That’s a rather broad sword to hand the Portland Police now don’t you think? Maybe the cops should just shoot the bus driver like they tend to shoot others that don’t fit into the New Portland Order. Yes, let’s have the cops deciding what you think is appropriate and dole out appropriate justice.*

*this is sarcasm, please don’t call the cops and tell them I hate them.

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

The DA *can* press charges without the consent of the victim. Indeed the DA can press charges against whomever he wants to with very little evidence. But, as a practical matter, that doesn’t happen very often. And in this case it would be extremely difficult to obtain a conviction. So it is not going to happen, unless…

are
Guest

the first time this story came around, i was all “christensen does not say what exactly the cyclist did to piss him off.” then when the interview with the cyclist came out, i was all “not how i would have done it, probably, but nothing for christensen to get so excited about.”

now with this story (can we be spared any more of this, please?), let me just say christensen did not say “i want to kill this cyclist,” he said “this cyclist is asking to be killed.” there is a difference, and i assume the district attorney gets it.

are
Guest

re comment 39, i think the word “cager” is descriptive, and i actually feel kinda sorry for people trapped in these cages.

AL M
Guest

One comment here says it all, very concise and accurate:

“””k.
August 26th, 2010 10:36
2

This is what happens when we pay too much attention to blogs. Stop it. Everyone.”””

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

VeloBusDriver #34…thanks for those remarks.

“First off, the DA can press charges without the consent of the “victim”. They are not. …” Philistine #39

Philistine, thanks for pointing that out. I haven’t looked into the situation, but suspect you are correct. I doubt there’s much of a case here.

“… Where is Metro when you need them to actually fix something…. ” dabby

Where is the sense of individual responsibility on the part of certain road users, including some of them on bikes, regarding safe use of the road?

Why must responsible road users, including Trimet’s drivers, seemingly be obliged to contend with the consequences of ongoing rationalizing that disregard for traffic regulations on the part of some modes of travel, bikes in this instance, is o.k., but for other modes of travel…motor vehicles, is not?

We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Paul Higgins, his parents, and the DA, who the parents say is ‘chomping at the bit’ to bring charges against the big mouth bus driver that drives like a guardian angel. They may be able to help prevent other Trimet employees from posting the type of comments this driver did.

They won’t be able to avoid being reminded regularly that despite his outrageous blog posting it was the bus driver’s driving expertise and compassion for human life that kept their son from being squished between the driver’s bus and the car in the next lane over.

And also, that their son’s operation of a bike on the road in traffic and his ideas about what is an acceptable way to operate a bike in such a situation, is severely lacking.

mac
Guest
mac

@#38 Ok, cited then. Basically the same thing. Essentially what I’m implying is that there is no purely innocent party here.

Christensen’s comments are possibly protected speech and (so-far) have not been proven to have incited anyone to violence and hence are probably not prosecutable.

Higgins actions in direct and admitted contravention of the law.

Again, there is no purely innocent party here.

In terms of reckless conduct it’s not dependent upon what others have gotten away with in the past. Nice try.

Also, the evidence that he was operating recklessly can be inferred from Higgins own comments AND evidence could probably be obtained by reviewing the Trimet video tape from the bus in question.

Fortunately both of these folks seem to be taking the high road, have admitted responsibility and seem to have decided to use this as a learning opportunity.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“I will assume you hate car drivers and have you arrested because fighting HATE includes all hate, even yours.”

nice try but its just vernacular for motorist in the same way breeder is vernacular for heterosexual.

death threats and incitement to violence on the other hand can be crimes.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“bus driver’s driving expertise and compassion for human life that kept their son from being squished”

1. you don’t know this.

2. i can think of better examples of compassion for human life than urging other to kill someone.

Velophile in Exile
Guest
Velophile in Exile

@ #45: Bob, the only thing that is “severely lacking” is your first-hand knowledge of how Paul was riding that day. Yet, your decision to draw conclusions about it shows that you have a bias against people who ride bikes. Sad.

Tonya
Guest
Tonya

He’s an adult? Then who cares what his parents think. Not news.