“His rifle was not aimed at the ground. It was aimed at the cars.”
— Woman who reported the crime
A woman who was riding a trike on the I-205 bike path near Gateway Green on Friday was startled when she saw a man holding a long rifle that appeared to be pointed at drivers on the freeway. Afraid for her safety, she called 911 and police later recovered the rifle without incident and did not charge the man with any crimes.
The story was originally posted on Nextdoor, but has since been removed. The story was then labeled as a “problematic source” on Reddit. Many people responded to the story with disbelief and questioned the original poster’s honesty. I saw the name of the person who posted it over the weekend and recognized it as a veteran of the local bike scene. She seemed to me a very reliable source so I emailed her to verify the story and she confirmed it to me. The woman later confirmed the story again in posts as “Grandmabecky” on the BikePortland Forums.
I followed up with her to learn more.
According to Grandmabecky, her bike-mounted camera captured an image of the rifleman and she sent it to police to help identify him. While she said it was a “pretty unnerving experience” Grandmabecky was most worried about the safety of people biking at the Gateway Green bike park.
Grandmabecky has decades of riding experience under her belt and used to bike this section of the path very often. That was before the path, “turned into homeless camps and drug alleys.” She also told me she’s notified the City of Portland about path blockages and other issues many times and was currently working with the city ombudsman to share specific locations so they could be added to a clean-up list. “So that is what I set out to do… that is why I was there.”
I asked Grandmabecky to describe her 911 call:
“My call to the 911 dispatcher was a bit frantic. I was trying to stop people from going toward the shooter area. I told her where I was. I told her what I saw. I had trouble with the physical description. I was going 20 mph on my electric-assist trike then faster after I passed him so even though my mind took a snapshot, what it saw was man crouched down in dark clothes, with what seemed to be ball cap and a rifle with a scope pointed at the freeway. He had a taller friend in light clothes halfway up the hill who was white. Shooter had a tan and appeared younger. But I could not say exactly what he looked like.”
Police told Willamette Week that the man was cooperative when the approached and that the weapon was a pellet rifle. The man told officers he was using it to shoot rats that were crawling into his camp. “No one was threatened,” a Portland Police Bureau spokesperson told Willamette Week. “He allowed officers to take the rifle for safekeeping and was not charged with a crime.”
But Grandmabecky says that story is hogwash. “Whatever kind of rifle that was, it was aimed at cars, not deer, not rabbits. I came upon them when they thought they were clear,” she shared with BikePortland. “His rifle was not aimed at the ground. It was aimed at the cars. He was next to the fence with the rifle horizontal. Unless the rats were the size of cars and on the freeway I cannot see how it could be rats. Even being an air rifle it could cause accidents and problems for the people on the freeway.”
This is far from the first time we’ve seen a scary situation unfold on the I-205 path (which is owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation with maintenance duties currently shared with the City of Portland). In late 2020 someone was stabbed while walking on a section of the path in Clackamas County, in 2019 then Commissioner of PBOT Chloe Eudaly responded to community concerns about a build-up of trash and debris on the trail, in 2018 three men were arrested for placing a trip-wire across the path, and in 2017 a bike rider was forced off the path by someone driving a truck.
Grandmabecky says she won’t ride her beloved bike paths any longer. “This city is broken. It is not safe anywhere.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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So was this guy arrested or not?
No charges because he was “shooting rats”.
That information is included in the article above. I’m not going to find it for you.
The article body does not mention an arrest. The police spokesperson’s account makes it seem that they were questioned and let go, not arrested (maybe detained is the right word?). But the title says they were arrested. That is a bit confusing.
Yeah, there is nothing in the story that says the guy was arrested. Maybe just a headline mistake?
Yes. My mistake. It does not appear that the man was arrested. I’ve edited the headline and the story and regret any confusion.
KATU reported that he was detained. Detained does not mean arrested, and arrested does not mean charged with a crime.
Okay, but the “shooting the rats” part I believe. Rats are a big problem in PDX now, bird feeders are attracting them in back yards. Given that information, I would let it slide.
Although, the “friend up the hill” could have given some context for the behavior.
Nor do I think that Grammabecky was out of line. I would have been equally terrified.
LOL I think bird feeders are the least of your problems over there when it comes to rats.
Right. My point is, the rat problem is so bad that they are invading back yards, far away from the alleged cause of the infestation. Certainly the houseless crisis may be driving this surge, or it could be the warm winter we had. In any case, it is a tangible problem for everyone.
Apparently the PPB responded because of the possible threat to MOTORISTS. If the threat were confined to bicyclists would they have responded? According to posts on Nextdoor, there were assaults of bicyclists and pedestrians in the last few days on the Springwater Corridor near Sellwood Bridge but the police did not respond.
I’m not on Nextdoor, do you have any details on that?
Whenever I see a story like this, I pat myself on the back for escaping Portland to my new low-status community when I did, back in late 2015. Of course we have our own issues here, higher murder rate, terrible walking and biking infrastructure, a city council that doesn’t care, etc.
Portland has a well-earned national reputation for being weird, cheap, and easy to find work for 20-something slacker creatives. Now it’s becoming dangerous too.
It’s not dangerous, bro.
My sister no longer feels safe walking her dog on her favorite path, bro.
Just like any major city there are “dangerous” areas, ours (MUPs) just happen to transect the city in numerous places.
I noped out of I205 for good last winter when I had dismount to get through the underpass north of Sandy and had to step over a pile of needles, never mind the other hazards. Doesn’t matter if it’s a freeway, protected bike lane, or multi-use path: why do we build infrastructure we can’t afford to maintain?
It’s not that we can’t afford to take care of it, it’s that we’ve intentionally decided not to maintain it in the name of “social justice.” Active transportation users have just sighed and let our vital connections get commandeered by an abusive, destructive population. Thew time to organize is now, lest we lose these public spaces for good.
wow. lot to unpack there.
let’s just leave it to “the budget for anything never includes upkeep”. I mean look at the construction for the Clackamas Mall area with all that: It’s going to be beautiful for one year and then it will go to seed.
Are you new to the country? We’ve been doing this for decades. Just look at nearly every bridge. There are very few (not newish ones) that “pass” structural safety. How long did it take to get a new Sellwood bridge? limits & restrictions for a very long time before it was replaced. & I5 to Vanc? Has needed replacement for a long time & both states are “oh, i don’t know it’s just sooo expensive.” As if it will be cheaper in a decade or 2.
Like GrandmaBecky, I have stopped using the 205-MUP because it feels unsafe, which is unfortunate because it’s the only car-free path available for my daily commute. I’ve encountered people with machetes on the path, people shouting at me and my kids, and people trading/selling firearms from their vehicles. No thanks, I’ll ride on the street.
I have also stopped using the 205 path, even though I only live 4 blocks from it. I’ve had multiple scary encounters, not to mention the human feces, trash, needles, etc. Instead of biking my kids to Lents Park (which I used to do) we are now forced to drive.
The rat infestation along the 205 bike path is no joke. If you walk along the path at night you seem them everywhere.
Judging by where the dude was aiming, the rats are pretty big as well. Giant rats are bad news, especially if they’re metallic and being driven by people.
It does appear to be a pellet rifle in the picture, but I’m no expert. I expect one of the many people out there who actually like guns can give a more definitive opinion.
He does appear to be aiming the rifle horizontally in the picture. You’re not going to do much damage to a vehicle on a highway and you’re unlikely to harm anyone inside. But that does not preclude the possibility he was aiming at cars, of course. I assume there were no reports of it from drivers, but a driver might not even know that it was a pellet, as opposed to a pebble, at highway speeds.
And certainly if caught in that situation, you’re not going to admit to shooting at the cars where there’s another plausible target. Otherwise, it was suspiciously good of the shooter to give it to the police “for safekeeping.” That last part doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Yes, I was wondering about the “safe keeping” comment as well. Was it confiscated? Can said person “check it out” from the evidence locker when the rats get out of hand? Who knows. Odd phrasing for a law enforcement action.
Ah, the forums. I’m scared that it is still an untamed land.
Makes sense overall. I really don’t know the policies and procedures for PPB. Overall I’d say this guy was “mostly harmless”.
First look at the photo, I thought it was a BB or pellet gun – the kind that cocks by a hinge in the barrel. Used to have one when I was a kid. To the untrained it would appear spooky. Pretty stupid to be using a rifle (even a BB gun) next to a freeway where someone might think you were aiming at cars. I don’t know what the laws are on BB guns if you’re in the city limits.
I feel for this woman, that would be scary. But I’m bummed to see BP run with this story. There is a tone of doom in Portland, as we go through the same problems facing pretty much every major American city right now, and sites like NextDoor — which reward posts that reinforce that narrative — make it worse. People feel unsafe around camps, and they seek out stories to vindicate that feeling. Is this worth reporting on?
If you’re going to report this type of story in the future, I hope you try to get some perspective from houseless people as well, preferably the actual subjects at hand. It doesn’t seem like you made that effort here.
In my own vivid experience, Portland’s declining safety is not a mere “narrative.” It isn’t a second-hand story to Grandmabecky, either.
If we demand an ever-growing gap between what can be seen and what can be said, our slide will steepen, not disappear through the power of magical thinking.
Uh… ok! Portland is rotting and it is precisely thanks to this laissez-faire attitude that it allowed to fester. Visit to most mid-sized cities and you would not see the problems we are dealing with here. Open your eyes and and stop with the insane enablement.
Reporting on the nonusability of bike paths on a bike site isn’t exactly nuts.
Not sure if you’re directly affected by this sort of thing but many people are. It’s much worse than it was just a few years ago, and it’s not just a cosmetic problem.
Separated paths are expensive, ineffective, and unsafe for purposes of housing, so I’m not convinced the compassionate thing to do is let this worsening situation which serves no one well continue along its trajectory. Whatever the case, if they can’t be used for their intended purpose, we should quit building them and quit pretending there will ever be more cyclists around Portland.
Hi bbcc. Thanks for your comment.
I absolutely hear where you are coming from with your comment. I can say stories like this are difficult to make decisions around. I can feel for all perspectives and I personally hate the “Portland is dying” narrative too. I would caution you though, about connecting this story to other issues related to houseless people. This was a guy with a gun on a bike path. And at the center of the story was a woman riding a bicycle. Those two facts are why I shared the story.
Yes I think it is. I totally hear what you are saying and if you follow me on Twitter you’d know that I’ve expressed several times how much I hate when people share this narrative about fear of camps and hatred of people who live there. And yes, I do think this was worth reporting on for the reasons I shared above. You should know that I’ve made a ton of decisions around stories like this that you are not aware of. I’ve decided not to publish a lot of things just for the reasons you mention in your comment.
I agree! Unfortunately I am not always able to talk with everyone I want to for my stories. That is a huge luxury. Also, in this case I don’t think it was a very ambiguous situation. The guy was pointing a gun near a bike path. Could he have valid reasons for that? Perhaps. But it’s still a crime and super scary for people and I think it’s fine to share the story without talking to him. And FWIW Bikeportland has done that type of reporting in the past on several occasions.
Thanks for your comment. I take any story that involves a houseless person very seriously and try to be super careful about it.
Thanks Jonathan. I can see why you found this newsworthy, and I do think you’ve done a good job on these issues, especially in the recent past.
I feel like a good proportion of housed Portlanders are teetering on the edge of calling for the human rights of their houseless neighbors to be violated. The measures called for on sites like NextDoor often sound like internment to me. I’m more concerned about that than I am about the camps lining our MUPs. Of course, I’m in the minority on this.
I ask that if you report stories about houseless folks committing some criminal offense, try to emphasize their shared humanity in kind.
Thanks bbcc. I think you and I are aligned on this. I’m trying to find the best way to cover these issues while respecting people involved.
And again, I had a paragraph in this story written about the homeless issue in general with links to County Office and more to give context to readers about the issue and a plea to understand it better than the superficial “Portland is over/dead!” b.s. But I deleted that paragraph because I felt like if you just look at the specific facts – a guy pointing a gun near the bike path – that it was a jump to connect it to homelessness. See what I’m saying? Without a full investigation, why even speculate that this guy was living there? If I would have made that assumption, folks would have come on here and called me out for assuming he was homeless when I don’t actually know if he was. Anyways, just want to share some of the thought I give this stuff and how it’s pretty complex and almost impossible for an outlet like BP to report on this stuff without really upsetting someone.
An excellent solution to any problem, especially one this complex, is to ignore it.
If people don’t feel safe around camps then perhaps it’s not because of some inherent class bias… maybe it’s because there are people brandishing weapons there?
Scolding people who don’t feel safe isn’t going to help and neither is scolding the media for reporting on it.
I’m bummed that I’ve been threatened with physical violence more than once on the I-205 path, and now cannot ride it with my family. Cyclists and pedestrians should have to bear the brunt of the drug addiction epidemic that fills our paths with garbage and dangerous people.
This is relevant because it takes place next to the 205 path. That is it. This community would be well informed by such a report.
Wow… I actually saw an ODOT-badged street sweeper parked on the 205 path up by Gateway transit center about a month ago. Unicorn that it is, maybe it should run fulltime and be equipped with a cattleguard (like the old wild west trains) so it can go up and down the path and plow all the rats out of the way?
Cyclists and pedestrians who don’t feel safe will escape to the perceived personal safety of a car or SUV.
A parent recently asked members of the local Reddit board if she should let her teenager ride the bus to school. Almost every parent (and many other riders) strongly counseled her against it.
She announced her decision: despite wanting to offer her daughter more independence, she was going to drive her back and forth daily until public transit wasn’t such a roll of the dice.
I live near the 205 path, I work out on marine drive near the airport. If I was to ride my bike, I’d be off road and on a multi-use path nearly the whole way. The only thing is I’d have to ride before the sun comes up.
There’s no way I’ll ride the 205 path before sun rise.
Alas, I drive my car…
I’m sure there’s surface streets that would be feasible. It is a great loss to not be able to use the 205 path.
It’s amazing what a turn the paths (205 and Springwater) took around 2014 or so. Before that they seemed to be pretty clear and bit “safer” feeling (and I know there have always been some lower levels of camps along parts of the Springwater, but nothing like what happened during this time. I mean Hood to Coast had to re-route to avoid big chunks of the trail). Then within a year that changed quickly.
It’s just a bad situation all around. Bad for the people who want to use the path and bad for the people who apparently feel forced to live on them.
Yes, that’s around the time I stopped riding on them. I better understand the argument that some folks have against MUPs after seeing the decline of the 205 path and the Springwater Trail.
“feel forced to live on them” No one is forcing anyone to live anywhere. We bought our home in Lents because of the Springwater and the floodplain and didn’t want to live downtown, our choice. Those that “choose” to live on public land that they don’t give a shit for, can go live elsewhere. I’m done with with their trash, shooting up in front of my grandkids and a complete disregard for our societal and civil agreements. Fuck ’em
Rebecca is a hero in my book. Thank you Rebecca!
On the point of violence against cyclists on our paths….don’t forget about Jay Hamlin who was attacked on another one of our bike paths (Springwater Corridor near SE 128th) in summer of 2019.
It was obviously a pellet rifle . Sheesh people settle down. Oh wait, we gotta be triggered at all
Times. He was doing the word a favor by getting rid of vermin. The animal kind.
Gun violence is a serious problem in the US. Sounds like you’re the one who’s triggered.
Car violence is a problem and they are all around us. Guns are tools. Cars are tools. The user was using it as intended. We don’t freak out at the site of a kitchen knife. Only its use.