Here’s the whole story of why SE 39th Ave. & Holgate St., including the Woodstock Trader Joe’s, was shut down on March 12‚ and, learn about the man police are honoring as a hero for fingering the alleged felon‚
All through the evening of March 12, traffic was routed around the crime scene where a wanted man shot at police officer‚ for no apparent reason.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What starts off as a routine traffic stop turns into a one-sided shooting spree and manhunt on Monday, March 12.
Folks driving home from work, perhaps planning to shop at Trader Joe’s on SE 39th Ave. south of Holgate Boulevard, find area streets blocked off with yellow “police crime scene” tape.
At traffic stop, passenger opens fire
“About 5:20 p.m., Portland Police Bureau SE Precinct Officer Robert Wullbrandt pulled over a black Buick Regal for a traffic violation,” Sgt. Brian Schmautz tells us on scene.
Schmautz says the car pulled in to the north end of the Trader Joe’s parking lot, followed by Wullbrandt’s patrol car. Inexplicably, as the officer is starting to chat with the driver of the auto he stopped, a passenger “bolts out of the car’s backseat and starts running eastbound across SE 39th Ave.”
As Wullbrandt chases after the fleeing man, the subject turns, takes aim, and fires his semiautomatic weapon at the officer. Because of Wullbrandt’s training, the officer resists the impulse to return fire and risk wounding the many bystanders.
As the gunman nears SE Holgate Boulevard, he stumbles, turns, and shoots again, before disappearing around the corner.
Members of the Special Emergency Reaction Team direct the evacuation of nearby residents and begin to negotiate with the alleged gunman from their post in the Trader Joe’s parking lot on SE. 39th Street.
The Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) is activated, the area is cordoned off.
Biker aids cops
Meantime, while the foot chase passes him, Greg Geist is astride his motorcycle, stopped at a red light on 39th at Holgate.
“I heard a gunshot, and saw a man fall,” Geist reports. “He got up and continued running, chased by a police officer. He had a semi-automatic pistol in his right hand.”
As the alleged shooter continues running in a labored jog, Geist finds himself in the dangerous position of being between the suspect and the officer, as Officer Wullbrandt ducks for cover.
The vehicle from which the gunman leaped is parked right where it was originally stopped for an unsafe lane change, in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.
Watches shooter’s getaway into apartment
Geist watches the suspect hike down Holgate. Still on his bike, Geist follows the man who had the gun into an apartment complex, and notes that he enters an apartment through a particular sliding glass door.
The alert motorcyclist then returns to the intersection to give officers a detailed description of the man he followed, and points out the specific apartment the suspect had entered.
The SERT officers evacuate nearby residents. After several hours, Hostage Negotiators talk the suspect into surrendering, and he is taken into custody without incident.
Police allege this man, 24-year-old Nicholas Ramon Onuskanvich, is the person who took a couple of poorly-aimed shots at the officer.
The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Nicholas Ramon Onuskanvich, is booked into jail on an outstanding warrant for Distribution of Methamphetamine, plus ‚Äì now — one count of Attempted Aggravated Murder.
Afterward, geist called a hero
At a ceremony held on Friday, March 16, at the Portland Justice Center, Greg Geist’s actions are lauded.
At the March 16 commendation ceremony are Officer Robert Wullbrandt, Greg Geist, Police Spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz, and Portland’s Police Chief, Rosie Sizer.
Geist’s commendation reads, in part, “Without Mr. Geist’s assistance, even with a thorough canvassing of the area, the dangerous suspect might not have been found. Mr. Geist’s detailed description of the events and the suspect was a tremendous assist to all involved.”
Chief Sizer presents the Citizens Medal of Heroism to Greg Geist.
Just before she hangs a medallion around Geist’s neck, Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer says, “We all wonder, in a crisis, how we would react. Mr. Geist, you acted very well. You helped police officers in a time of real jeopardy. You helped all of us, by getting a dangerous person off the streets. And you did so, exercising good judgment and calculating the risk. I, and all of our officers, appreciate your actions that day.
“On behalf of the Portland Police Bureau, I present you with the Citizens Medal of Heroism.”
Looking somewhat overwhelmed by his tribute, Geist thanks the Portland Police Bureau for honoring him.
An unassuming champion responds
After being presented with a card from the Police Association’s Robert King, Geist steps forward.
“When I came here today, I’d hope to meet Chief Sizer to tell her how impressed I was with every police officer I came in contact on Monday. They were very professional and humane. Thank you all.”
Reporters ask Geist to show his medal.
Talking with reporters, Geist answers their questions: “No, I didn’t feel in danger. My heart raced a little bit when I saw both the officer and the gunman with their guns out. I just followed him, and kept an eye on him.”
Sharing his proud moment with fianc?©e Kim Powers, Geist confides that the couple is to be married August 4.
¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service