Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Hit someone biking and then flee the scene? Think again says PPB

Posted by on January 25th, 2012 at 10:25 am

“To me, driving off and leaving a bicyclist or pedestrian laying on the side of the road is one of the most cold-hearted things a driver can do. We’ll go after them every chance we get.”
— Sgt. Todd Davis, Portland Police Bureau

The Portland Police Bureau takes hit-and-runs seriously — especially when they involve someone walking or biking. I know their response to incidents doesn’t satisfy everyone all of the time; but in my experience, when they have enough evidence to work with, they go after suspects until they find them.

So far this year, I’ve learned of two arrests that have been made. In both cases, the person driving the car hit someone riding a bike and then fled the scene. In both cases, the PPB opened an investigation and made an arrest.

On December 31st, 28-year old Nicholas Smith was riding his bike on NE Sumner. When he got to NE 28th, he was hit by William Prosser, an 18-year old who was driving a car. The impact threw Smith from his bike and he sustained minor injuries. Prosser fled the scene but fortunately, Smith was able to get his license plate number.

PPB Officer Chris Johnson (whom Sgt. Todd Davis tells me handles the majority of bicycle cases), was assigned the investigation. Officer Johnson traced the license plate to Prosser and Sgt. Davis says Prosser turned himself in yesterday. He was arrested on one count of hit-and-run.

On January 11th, 27 year old Brian Reiter was riding his bike at the intersection of NE Multnomah and Wheeler in the Rose Quarter following a Trail Blazer game when he was struck by 25 year old Kealli Kai Torres. The impact left Reiter with a broken foot and facial “contusions.” He was transported to the hospital via ambulance. Torres, who was driving a car, fled the scene.

According to police, a Broadway Cab driver named Aaron Duff saw the incident and followed Torres several blocks. Duff then confronted the woman and told her she needed to return to the scene or he’d continue to follow her. Torres listened, returned to the scene, and was subsequently arrested for felony hit and run.

The cab driver, Aaron Duff, deserves recognition for stepping up and taking action in this case.

Sgt. Davis, who processes all the hit-and-runs that come into the PPB, told me yesterday that,

“We follow-up up on every one of these cases that we can. To me, driving off and leaving a bicyclist or pedestrian laying on the side of the road is one of the most cold-hearted things a driver can do. We’ll go after them every chance we get.”

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Paul Johnson January 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Curious how the cases turn out.

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  • Austin Ramsland January 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I am glad that they caught and cited the two drivers above.

    That said.

    I was involved in a hit and run last summer. The teenage driver fled the scene, and I took a trip to the hospital.

    I got the plates.
    The cops showed up.
    They went to the driver’s house where she admitted leaving the scene.

    And yet there was no arrest, there was no investigation, and the driver didn’t even get a ticket.

    When I asked the officer about this, he said that it was best if I let the insurance companies handle the details.

    So yes, they got two people, but they have a long way to go as far as I’m concerned.

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    • pixie January 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Jonathan, you’ve reported before about the police using discretion in citing decisions. If you have time, it would be great if you could follow up Austin’s story and find out why there was no action taken in what appears to be a very similar situation as the first example.

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    • Natalie January 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

      I’m gonna guess that police don’t give teenagers felony hit & run’s as liberally as adults.

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  • John Lascurettes January 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Kudos to Aaron Duff.

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  • 9watts January 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    In both of the cases you describe in the article it was civilians who got key info on which to proceed. Referring to the police work as an ‘investigation’ is a little generous I think.
    example A – scan license plate, follow up.
    example B – arrest driver upon her return to the scene.

    Good, but I’d be more interested in examples where the police had to do a little work.

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    • JRB January 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      I’m not sure what more you want the cops to do. Cops witness very few crimes first hand. Civilians do. The cops interview the witnesses and based on the evidence gathered hopefully can identify a suspect. They can then interview the suspect and search the vehicle for evidence.

      The real world doesn’t work like CSI. No police department has the resources or technology available to find a smear of auto paint left on a bike and then go interview the 1200 people in the Portland metro area who drive a car with that kind of paint on it. I agree that police and the auto-centric society they represent could take crime against cyclists and pedestrians more seriously, but I find your criticism of this story unwarranted.

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      • 9watts January 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm

        JRB –
        I hear you, but to me a hit and run of a cyclist is way more important than doing stings in Ladd’s Addition, for instance. So if Jonathan’s examples are as good as it gets as far as police putting time and effort into finding the guilty party who ran, then I guess I’m just not that impressed. If they do put in more effort where others haven’t (been able to) do more of the footwork perhaps we could hear about it, but otherwise I stand by my critique.
        I am not familiar with what CSI is, but if we can spend untold millions of tax payer dollars looking for Kyron Horman, we sure as heck can do better than what it sounds like Austin experienced (above).

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        • JRB January 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm

          No argument that resources couldn’t be better allocated. My point is that without witnessing first hand or having good witnesses or traffic cam footage, no amount of policework is going to catch a hit and run driver. Be proud that you don’t know what CSI is. If you are curious, ask a friend who watches more television.

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  • Anonymous January 25, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I was involved in a hit and run collision; I was hit on my bike and the driver ran. Fortunately only minor injuries. A witness wrote down the plate number and described the driver. In approximately two weeks, the police arrested the driver. I was very surprised and honestly thought the incident would not be pursued by the police. The police sincerely worked to find to driver.

    I did learn that without a license plate number and a description of the driver, hit and run cases are very difficult to investigate and prosecute.

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  • daisy January 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    The irony is that if the driver stays, they can often get away with this.

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    • A.K. January 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      There is no irony in that. If there is a collision and the driver stays, then they are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, which is to stay and cooperate with the police – can’t charge someone with hit and run and if they don’t actually “run”.

      I’d much rather have a driver who hits me stay and get their insurance info from them and not have them charged with a crime then have them drive off, leaving me with no info and a very low probability of future arrest. At least if they stay and I get their information, my insurance company can pursue them for compensation.

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    • Natalie January 26, 2012 at 7:55 am

      Seriously, it’s not “getting away” with something to stay at the scene. I’d say that half of the problem is that people flee because they’re terrified that they’re about to go to jail for something they honestly were not trying to do. Having now ridden exclusively bikes for about 8 months, I am comfortable admitting that two years ago I was a driver in a minor collision with a bike rider at night who wasn’t wearing any lights. You can’t imagine the horrific draining feeling of realizing that you just hurt someone and getting this intense panic that screams at you to get away as fast as possible because you’re about to be in the worst trouble of your life. After talking myself down from driving away in a panic, I walked back to the busy intersection where the collision had happened, sat by the injured bike rider, allowed all the witnesses to treat me like a monster, then drove the guy to the hospital with help from a police officer, because he was refusing ambulance service due to not having any health insurance. My insurance got him a new bike and whatever medical tests and treatments he wanted, and we ended up being completely at peace with what had happened, because we had both screwed up and both just wanted to go on with our lives. Blanket villainizing doesn’t help.

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      • 9watts January 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

        Thanks for posting your story, Natalie.

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  • Susan Rosenthal January 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Kudos again to Aaron Duff. Glad someone cared enough to get involved

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  • Stripes January 25, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    It seems like almost every time I read about the driver arrested for hitting a bicyclist in Portland, they are 18, or 20, or 23, or…

    The logical conclusion from this observation is… (drumroll plz)… BAN EVERYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 35 FROM DRIVING!! I think that would successfully cut the crash rate city-wide by about, oh, 75%. There. DONE.

    I’m being facetious, but it did just occur to me, not entirely out of humor, I think that’s why crash rates are so low in places like Europe. Nobody under 30 or so owns a car, for reals.

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    • Opus the Poet January 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      The difference is in most EU countries it’s much harder to get a driver’s license (skin to the requirements to get a pilot’s license), and outside of the UK, much easier to lose your license than in the US. Also getting a car loan in the EU is much harder, with higher down payments and interest rates, with huge taxes on car ownership as much as 100%/year.

      This has a tendency to get car ownership into older, and more mature, hands.

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    • q`Tzal January 25, 2012 at 10:48 pm

      No, no, no – this is Oregon and we can get behind this.
      We already have this stupid “can’t pump your own gas” law – allegedly for the sake of employment.

      If no one under 35 years old can drive think of all the elderly that will be employed chauffeuring people around.
      Gainfully employed, feeling the self worth of providing society a valuable service.
      Providing unexpected traffic calming by driving everywhere >10MPH below the speed limit.

      Yup, this sounds like a good idea!

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      • Paul Johnson January 26, 2012 at 5:05 am

        It’s not about employment, it’s about groundwater and air quality and fire safety. The legislature didn’t ban it, the fire marshal and DEQ did.

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        • q`Tzal January 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

          Is there any real evidence that this has made any difference at all?

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  • Barbara January 26, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Glad to see things have changed. It’s wasn’t always this way. I was run over while stopped at a red light by an impatient driver several yrs ago. I got the license #. The driver drove away after yelling “you F..king bicyclist deserve it”. The police said the lisence plate # wasn’t good. But my insurance ompany found it & the driver easily when I filed a claim. The police then discouraged me from filing a report or taking action after talking with the the owner of the auto, the uncle of the 37 yr old driver saying he had a history of trouble & “let’s just forget it”, too much work to investigate. Their insurance company decided to try to say I was at > 51% so they could avoid paying for my damage & injuries. After a long upsetting process of repeatedly feeling victimized and taken advantage and finally threatening to get a lawyer settled for $2500 & yr medical.

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    • 9watts January 26, 2012 at 8:03 am

      “The police said the lisence plate # wasn’t good. But my insurance ompany found it & the driver easily when I filed a claim.”
      Was this in Portland? What a story! Why does this, your experience, match my gut sense of how the police are inclined to handle these situations? Unbelievable. I hope if it was in Portland that we’ve made some progress since and that this would not be considered acceptable by Sgt. Todd Davis et al.

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  • Dave Cary January 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I’d like to see Natalie’s comments published somewhere in the Oregonian, if people still read it, or maybe the Willamette Weekly or some some other publication. Or even a 2-minute sound bike on the news. It tends to take away the thought that “you’re gonna die for what you just did” and turn it into an unpleasant experience that you can get through. That was the most uplifting story I’ve heard in a while about car/bike crashes.

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  • Alli January 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    It’s nice to hear that the police here actually follow up on hit and runs. I moved here from Arizona a few years ago–where I was also the victim of a hit and run. But the guy that hit me did it intentionally. I will never forget the look of satisfaction on his face as I made contact with his silver econoline van. He then took off, my husband raced after him, and the guy ran a stop light to get away from him. My injuries were minimal thankfully but I still spent hours in the ER. An officer came to see me there, took the story including the license plate number and basically laughed at me. He said they couldn’t do a thing. I tried to follow up with a personal friend on the force. He also laughed at me. I know no place is perfect–but that experience is a big reason why I left Arizona. (Sadly, my husband also was hit by a hit and run driver in Arizona too. No follow up by the police.)

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