Here’s why both drivers – and riders – of public transit are concerned about the growing violence flowing from Lents neighborhood encampments …
After the stabbing assault, a Portland Police Bureau Transit Police officer stands guard at the break room door, tucked under the Foster Road MAX Light Rail station.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Police rolled into the area of SE 94th Avenue and SE Foster Road about 2:45 p.m. on July 17, after a TriMet bus driver was stabbed after leaving the employee break facility, located under the Green Line MAX Light Rail station.
“I saw [the driver] fighting with a dirty looking guy,” Angela Jefferson told East Portland News after she talked with police who raced to the location from all directions.
This lineup of westbound TriMet busses is a familiar sight on SE Foster Road, under the I-205 viaduct.
“He looked like he got cut,” Jefferson added, “but, he still kind of ran back to his Line 71 bus, and slammed the door shut.”
As a frequent TriMet rider, Jefferson said she is concerned about an increasing number of homeless people gathering around the bus stop and MAX Light Rail station. “I won’t ride at night,” she added. “Ain’t no way – it’s just getting too scary around here – even in the middle of the day.”
Jefferson referenced the previous bus driver stabbing, about a half-mile away, that took place about three months ago – saying that the new stabbing only increased her fear of public transit.
> Read about the April 20 TriMet bus driver stabbing: CLICK HERE.
Portland Transit Police cars and officers arrive, and begin their investigation of this assault.
The injured TriMet bus operator, 40-year-old Fadi Hamad, told police that a “transient looking” man demanded to be granted entry to the TriMet facility – it’s strictly against agency policy – to use the bathroom.
At first, it was reported that Hamad had been slashed with a small, 3” “pocket knife” during the recent scuffle – leaving the bus operator with stab wounds to his neck, near an artery, and in the stomach.
But, as the story unfolded, Hamad told investigators that he’d wrestled an X-ACTO® razor knife from the hand of his assailant. “I’m lucky to be alive,” he told reporters the following day. “I could have been killed.”
Just east of Lents Town Center, police formulate a plan to search for the assailant.
Hamad told officials he’d gotten a good look at the knifeman – including a distinctive “checkerboard pattern” tattoo on his neck.
After getting patched up at OHSU, Hamad returned home the following day. But, he told reporters, he was scheduled for a follow-up visit at the hospital.
TriMet investigators worked with Transit Police in an attempt to locate any video showing the attack or attacker, but came up empty-handed.
Says he fears nearby ‘Bum Camps’
A Lents resident, teenager Jake Curtis, called the Springwater Trail “Bum Avenue” – from SE 82nd Avenue, across SE Flavel Street where the April attack took place, and to SE Foster Road near SE 101st Avenue.
“When I was a young, we used to go riding our bikes and walking on the Springwater Trail all the time,” Curtiss told East Portland News. “But, I’ve had too many friends get attacked, or at least threatened, near the ‘bum camps’ all along the trail.”
The following day, TriMet spokesperson Roberta Altstadt talked with reporters near the location of the latest stabbing. “We definitely need to have something done about this. We want to be a part of [finding] a solution. We want to make sure this [area] is safe for our operators and our riders.”
But the several homeless encampments in the area fall outside the Transit Police officers’ jurisdiction, Altstadt pointed out.
While a TriMet operator heads in to use the facility, a Transit Police officer stands guard at the location.
The knifing suspect is described as a white male in his 20s, 5’9″ tall, medium build, medium length brown hair, unshaven face with several scars, and a black and white “checkerboard” tattoo on the front of his neck.
“TriMet once again is offering a reward, and appealing to the community, to help catch a suspect who stabbed one of our bus operators,” Altstadt said.
Anyone seeing this suspect is asked to call 9-1-1. Anyone with non-emergency information is asked to contact Detective Paul Dolbey at (503) 823-0451.
© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News