— This story is by Jacob Loeb. It was first published by Montavilla News on October 25th.
James Brian Fenimore was killed by a speeding Minivan this week while walking on a SE 82nd Avenue sidewalk near E Burnside Street. He was an artist who had lived in Montavilla’s Milepost 5 Studios for years and created art under the name Jimi Rockola. Portland Police cited the suspected driver for manslaughter in the first degree, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and reckless driving. Members of the non-profit Milepost 5 Studios Artists’ Collective and residents of his former apartment building are mourning the loss of their fellow creator and friend, who had left them for a quick errand that he never returned from.
Fenimore moved into the neighborhood affordable housing complex after his boss, who was also the manager at the time, recommended it. As a musician, he fit in with the predominantly artist residents at Milepost 5 and soon formed a band. Fenimore loved his second-floor apartment overlooking Montavilla Park and his new community. As COVID locked everyone indoors, he continued to make music with his newfound friends. Later, after a band member died and others needed a break, Fenimore began concentrating on his artwork created from discarded items. “I’ve always been appalled at how much waste there is in the world and how easy it is to repurpose everyday items,” wrote Fenimore in a September 19th open letter to the Milepost 5 community.
James Fenimore taught art classes and hosted open-mic events at Milepost 5, joining the Milepost 5 Studios Artists’ Collective when it was formed. Despite his commitment to the art community in the building, he lost his apartment. Fenimore had difficulties establishing his rental support eligibility paperwork with the building management, according to his friend and Milepost 5 Studios Artists’ Collective founder, Sarah Gerhardt. Despite losing his housing, he kept involved with art and his community, holding onto the support he received from his fellow artists.
“Even though I lost my Apt. I still had something I never had in 65 years. I felt love and compassion and hope in a violent, angry world,” wrote Fenimore.
The night of his death, James Fenimore left his friends on his way to exchange collected cans for their deposit money. He was living on the street, waiting to get into other affordable housing. Although his death will add to the disproportionately high percentage of homeless people killed in traffic crashes, this tragedy had nothing to do with his current living situation. Security footage of the wreck shows Fenimore walking north on the sidewalk towards the E Burnside crosswalk. Another pedestrian walking south passes Fenimore before jumping out of the way of the speeding minivan as it careens off the street. The other person barely reaches safety before the vehicle collides with Fenimore and the signal equipment. Both people on the sidewalk were well-lit and walking in what should have been a safe area; only chance spared one of them. Police attribute the crash to speed and alcohol.
The driver of the vehicle is in the hospital with significant injuries. Police have accused them of being criminally reckless with their actions, costing the community an artist and depriving many people of a friend.