Just as we feared back in November after a similar tragedy took place in lower Manhattan; the horror of vehicular violence has come to Portland.
About an hour ago someone appears to have intentionally steered their SUV up a curb on SW 6th Avenue just before Montgomery and hit at least three women. Portland Police say two of them are being treated at OHSU with life-threatening injuries and the other one has serious injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening. A fourth person is believed to have been injured but left the scene and so far PPB have not been able to contact them.
From media coverage we know that one of the victims was found right at the top of the ramp of the Portland State University Urban Plaza outside Cafe Yumm! and the Rec Center. Another victim was lying south of that near the transit stop outside the cafe.
The driver fled the scene and police are on the hunt (they typically don’t update media with cases like this because they don’t want to tip off the suspect who might be watching the news).
A man who saw the collisions, said he believes the SUV driver “gunned it” prior to hitting the women. Other witnesses say the driver was going very fast. A speed of 35-40 mph has been reported.
I’m still not clear which direction the driver was coming from — northbound on 6th or eastbound on SW Montgomery. Based on witness photos seen here, the driver’s car was all the way up on the sidewalk in front of the Starbucks just south of Mill. That means it’s likely he mounted the curb near the plaza at Montgomery where the people were originally hit.
This is not a location where speeding or dangerous driving is very common. The streets are relatively narrow (6th has a bus/MAX-only lane), and the urban context is dense and lively with people biking and walking. The buildings around this plaza also happen to be home to PSU’s renowned transportation and urban planning programs. The PSU Bike Hub is just one block south of where the women were hit.
I can’t stop thinking about the fact that driving shouldn’t even be allowed in this area. When a new PSU building was recently built on the adjacent block of SW Montgomery, we hoped it would be carfree. And don’t even get me started about how we’re still allowed to drive private vehicles on the downtown “transit mall.”
As you watch and listen to local coverage, please help other reporters understand how important language and word choice is — especially when covering something like this. As many of you already know, this suspected crime was committed by a person, not an “SUV” or a “car”. It was not an “accident,” it was a collision. And the driver didn’t hit “pedestrians,” he hit people.
Given where this happened, I’ll be shocked if there isn’t high-quality surveillance footage. We’ll definitely be learning more in the coming hours and days. If you saw anything or have information, please contact PPB non-emergency at 503-823-3333.
We’ll let know about any major developments. For more coverage, check live update via The Oregonian.
UPDATE, 12:35 pm: The police have found and arrested the suspect at NE 16th and Glisan.
UPDATE: Please note that I’ve made edits to this story as the police continue to make updates.
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