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

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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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