Man killed by drunk driver in Montavilla was beloved artist

(Left: Self portrait collage by James Brian Fenimore. Right: Fenimore in his studio. Photo courtesy Sarah Gerhardt)

— 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’s art from an April 2023 show.

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.

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Chris I
Chris I
5 months ago

James Brian Fenimore was killed by a speeding Minivan this week while walking on a SE 82nd Avenue sidewalk near E Burnside Street.

Jacob,

The murderous driver of the van has been identified, so there is no reason to use this type of language in reports like this. A van can’t kill anyone on its own.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Can you imagine someone writing, “John Doe was killed by a smoking gun”, if a person under the influence of intoxicants shot into a crowd and killed someone?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Guns don’t kill people, people do. Right?

BB
BB
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

And your point is what?
Yes people kill people but now they can use weapons like the Maine shooter did that blow people up beyond recognition (Seriously).
Save your snark for another time (or never).

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  BB

My point is simple. If we’re want to focus on the people who kill people, rather than the tools they use, let’s do that.

That, or let’s just not try to police people’s choice of words, which would be my preference.

Lois Leveen
Lois Leveen
5 months ago

We’ve heard the mayor and the commission in charge of PBOT and the Portland Police Officer in charge of “traffic division” all rail about people driving under the influence, as though there is nothing government can do but cite individuals’ personal responsibility to not drive drunk. But I kind of wonder WHERE folks who DUI are doing their drinking; not just the ones who kill somebody, but everyone who is over the limit yet behind the wheel. Why is no one tracking this? OLCC is, if I recall correctly, pretty clear about it being illegal to serve someone alcohol if they are noticeably intoxicated. Why is no one paying attention to the need to not serve alcohol to people who are about to drive? Imagine if bars and restaurants lost their liquor licenses for this. They would get better about not profiting off of endangering the public. You know, just spitballing for how we can achieve a world in which we’d have a lot fewer dead, injured, or endangered people.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

Why is no one paying attention to the need to not serve alcohol to people who are about to drive?

I don’t disagree with your fundamental point (overserving contributes to DWI, and there’s a degree of culpability there), but how can a bar do what you are asking them to do?

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

A perceptive bartender should be able to easily notice if someone is intoxicated. And it is illegal (under OLCC) to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, even if they’re not actually intoxicated. Walking up to a bartender and telling them something like, “That joint I just smoked outside made me thirsty. Can I get a beer?” is enough to get denied.

That being said, I have personally witnessed people walking an obviously intoxicated person out of a bar next door to the coffee shop I used to work at, sit them on a curb and walk back inside. A taxi was probably called, but I didn’t see the pickup. Another time, they didn’t sit on the curb and instead fell into a traffic lane on W. Burnside.

Bartenders and servers – please stop serving intoxicated people!

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Yes to all of that, but the problem is that you’re too drunk to drive long before the OLCC says you should be cut off (i.e. you’re “visibly intoxicated”).

Ray
Ray
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah, that is true in many cases. The point remains that the alcohol-drinking culture deserves to be significantly curtailed and servers of the alcohol are the front line.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Again, I agree, but asking servers to take responsibility for not serving people who might drive is probably an impossible request.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
5 months ago
Reply to  Lois Leveen

People don’t drink at home?

EP
EP
5 months ago

Absolutely tragic. We should feel safe walking on our city streets, especially at major intersections like this.

The driver was speeding so excessively that when he crashed into the giant steel signal pole, the engine came flying out of the minivan. The pole is huge, and that’s what it took to stop this destructive driver. I don’t want to have to have our sidewalks and bike lanes lined with steel poles, but we need something more than paint and plastic posts if we’re going to protect anyone.

Chris I
Chris I
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

*** portion of comment deleted by moderator *** Vichea Pok has a history of violent crimes in this city:

https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2022/07/portland-robber-armed-with-kitchen-knife-arrested-police-say.html

He should have been in jail for the crimes in the above article, not driving around high on Fentanyl, free to kill innocent pedestrians in our city.

BB
BB
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

It’s sort of the status Quo in Portland currently but don’t worry, DA Schmidt gives himself an A+ for how he is enforcing and prosecuting the offenders in the city so you are just expecting too much to not be mowed over by a 4 time offender.

socially engineered
socially engineered
5 months ago
Reply to  BB

There’s this pesky thing called the Bill of Rights that says you can’t just try someone without a lawyer. Might want to check it out sometime.

BB
BB
5 months ago

Aww.. we found the Mike Schmidt fan.. there is one after all..
Yes let’s let violent offenders loose on a technicality to run over and murder pedestrians… Schmidt would be so proud of you.

socially engineered
socially engineered
5 months ago
Reply to  BB

I do like the idea that the Constitution is a mere “technicality”, but I had no idea the DA had the power to dismiss cases at will…oh wait:

https://www.opb.org/article/2022/11/22/oregon-public-defender-shortage-multnomah-county-dismissed-cases/

socially engineered
socially engineered
5 months ago

To clarify, yes, the DA has the power to drop charges against a defendant. However, the DA cannot stop judges from dismissing cases due to a lack of public defenders, which is what is actually happening.