Northwest Portland resident Joe Harris says he experienced a nightmare.
“He was slow and methodical, he stared me down, he drove alongside… at other times he drove ahead and waited for me, then simply drifted around incessantly tailing me at about 50 meters.”
— Joe Harris
The way Harris tells it, on Sunday, May 5th, he was riding alone up NW Moreland Road in rural Multnomah County (about 12 miles northwest of the St. Johns Bridge) when he noticed a man in a white, late model Subaru Outback had rolled up behind him. Harris says the driver “hunted” him for a half hour.
“At several points, he drove alongside and attempted to engage in conversation and asked if I needed to stop for water; at other times he drove ahead and waited for me, then simply drifted around incessantly tailing me at about 50 meters,” Harris wrote on his personal Facebook page.
Realizing he was alone and in a place without cell coverage, Harris rode up the hill as fast as he could. When he finally made it to the intersection with Skyline Road, he called 911. As he made the call, he looked up, only to realize that the man in the Subaru had pulled into the turnout to wait for him. Then the man began to drive toward Harris. “He started cutting across the road and straight towards me,” Harris explained. Thankfully he was saved when a woman riding a horse from a nearby ranch emerged onto the road and the man drove away.
It was, Harris recalled later, “Hands down, the scariest lazy Sunday spin I’ve had for decades.”
Two officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office responded quickly. Harris said one drove off to look for the suspect and the other escorted him to the (relative) safety of Highway 30. As they made their way to the main highway, Harris said they came up on another rider who said he was also harassed by the same driver.
This man in the Subaru allegedly harassed Harris and used his car as to menace him. To make it even creepier, Harris recalled something like the words, “I fear only Satan” or “Satan is afraid of me” written in red marker on the car’s tailgate.
Reached via phone last week, Harris said the incident has shaken him on many levels. “This guy was on my tail for 30 minutes. He did not give up. He waited for me. And when he passed, he was slow and methodical, he stared me down,” Harris said. The man tried to start conversations with Harris several different times. When he took a swig from his water bottle, the man sped up, drove slowly right beside him, held up a two-liter jug of water and said, “Do you want to stop for some water.”
Harris, an IT consultant and co-editor of The Outer Line on Velo News, is convinced the man had these interactions planned out beforehand in an effort to expose his vulnerabilities. Harris also thinks the man had a police radio scanner on inside the car so he would know if authorities were onto him. NW Moreland is one of the roads in that area without cell coverage and it has very little traffic — both facts Harris thinks were well-known to the suspect.
Portlander Justin Gericke saw Harris’ post on Facebook and it seemed very familiar to him. Gericke was biking on SW Terwilliger last summer when a man with creepy behavior, driving a car with the same description, came up next to him and tried to engage him in conversation. “He appeared to be under the influence of something,” Gericke recalled when I asked him for details. “And he became offensive after I declined to engage him.” Gericke immediately called 911 as the man in the car yelled at him and he only sped away after a long line of other drivers had stacked up behind him.
“I cannot be certain it was the same guy, but the encounter was similar enough to me to think it was,” Gericke shared.
Harris thinks if it was the same man, he’s purposely moved further away from the city to more remote locations. “He’s going further out for isolation for whatever he’s hunting,” is how Harris put it.
I’m still trying to confirm the case with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. I spoke with a deputy today who couldn’t immediately find Harris’ case. The deputy who Harris met out on Skyline isn’t back on duty until Thursday.
Portland-based lawyer and author of Bicycling and the Law, Bob Mionske, has spoken to Harris about the incident. Mionske says bringing a legal case against this driver would be difficult unless there were corroborating witnesses and a positive identification of the driver could be made. “In the meantime,” Mionske shared with me today, “It’s best we all share information about this guy and take precautions until we determine his motivation.”
Please be careful and keep your eyes peeled for the suspect: Harris says the driver is a white male in his 20s to early 30s with closely buzzed hair, a sharp chin and nose and sunken eyes. He’s driving a late-model white Subaru Outback with a smashed right front fender and tailgate. Harris also noticed his front license plate was bent and damaged.
Given the details of this case, we’re concerned that this guy is still out there and poses an imminent threat. Remember, it’s always safer to ride in a group. “Be aware of the roads you’re using when riding alone,” Harris shared, “and try to use routes with more frequent traffic and generally stronger cellular reception for emergencies.”
If you have interacted with this person and/or see him, please call 911 or the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at 503-988-4300.
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