“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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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