Foster Road hit-and-run death followed by arrest

After learning that the alleged hit-and-run driver had turned himself in, read what message mourners at a candlelight vigil said they’re trying to send …

As darkness falls, candles light the faces of those mourning the sudden loss of their friend, in a hit-and-run accident on SE Foster Road.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Residents along SE Foster Road say they’re dismayed that yet another pedestrian has been slain crossing the street.

The latest accident, described by police as a hit-and-run, took the life of 26-year-old Jason Lee Grant – who was hit by a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck on January 28, just a little before 7:00 p.m., while crossing Foster Road near SE 70th Avenue.

Friends and co-workers describe the slain man, Jason Lee Grant, as a creative, caring individual.

At a candlelight vigil held at that corner on February 2, many of those present hadn’t yet heard that 53-year-old Jim Dean Patterson had turned himself in to police at the Eastport Plaza substation at 12:30 p.m., earlier the same day. But learning about it clearly didn’t alter the sorrow they felt for losing their friend – for many, a fellow musician and co-worker, who had been abruptly taken from them.

“He spent so much time in our studio, making music,” reflected Luke Alexander, while being comforted by his friends. “As far as Jason goes, he was a good friend of mine; we shared the same ideas. He was somebody who always took the time to think about somebody else; he was so selfless.”

Friend of the victim, and a fellow musician, Luke Alexander is consoled by his friends at the vigil held for the deceased, Jason Grant.

Alexander paused, and tried to regain his composure. “Somebody took his life and chose to run away from [the accident]. There’s no crosswalk here; there’s no lights. It should not have happened.”

Christian Smith, Chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association, responded, “We’ve been fighting for traffic safety improvements on SE Foster Road for years now – close to a decade. For 10 years we’ve had an unrealized streetscape improvement plan to address a lot of the safety issues. But, this is the fourth pedestrian death in about a two-year period. Something’s got to happen.”

Referring to the thoroughfare as the “Foster Freeway”, Smith reflected that the character of the street is “wholly incompatible, in its current configuration”, with the plans by the City and METRO to turn it into a “Main Street” – with more family-oriented businesses, cafés, and retail. “It’s still used as a freeway out to Happy Valley.”

Christian Smith, Chair of the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association, says pedestrian safety has historically been overlooked in favor of the keeping traffic moving quickly and abundantly along the “Foster Freeway”.

Neighbor Rachel Cunningham stands with ROSE CDC’s Nick Sauvie. “Foster Road has been a major thoroughfare for a hundred years. But, times are changing; now there’s more pedestrians,” Cunningham says.

Saying SE Foster Road needs more crosswalks, better lighting, and more awareness, Rachel Cunningham commented, “I’ve lived two blocks from [this intersection] for about seven years. I love it here. But, we have a daughter who – obviously – won’t be allowed to be on Foster Road [by herself] until some major safety improvements have been made.”

Stan Hall and his son Henry both held candles, and stood in solidarity with others at the vigil. “I’m taking this opportunity to both pay respect to the victim – and to help my son understand how difficult it is to be safe when crossing the road here.”

As a resident of six years, Hall said he was concerned, because his son would be starting school next year – perhaps at Marysville. “At some time, when he gets older, Henry will have to cross the street by himself. I’m really hoping that this turnout will help get the City’s attention about what’s going on along this corridor.”

Henry Hall listens as his dad, Stan Hall, explains why it’s very important to be careful around major streets, like Foster Road.

At the fringes of the vigil, Grant Chisholm of “Grandma’s Funky Furniture”, 6852 SE Foster Road, buttonholed PDOT Traffic Safety Investigator Greg Raisman, and asked, “Why isn’t the City pouring more money into making Foster Road safer for this neighborhood?”

Raisman replied, “We’ve identified Foster Road as a ‘high crash corridor’. We’re really looking for every way we can to make this road as safe as we can.  We recently just secured a Regional Flexible Funds grant which will result in several million dollars of work between SE 50th and 84th Avenues. We’ve done some work in the last few years to increase the number of [marked] pedestrian crossings, and to do other things to make it safer out here. Clearly we have more work to do.”

Raisman added that had had come to express his condolences and to support the victim’s friends. After from hearing from many people that Foster Road’s speed should be reduced to 25 mph., he commented to us, “Foster Road is a ‘collector street’. It serves really important functions in moving traffic to our city. But, it’s really important to balance [moving vehicular traffic] with making it safer for people who live in this neighborhood.”

A trio of the victim’s musician friends sing a musical tribute.

As darkness fell, a trio of musicians gathered by a fence where a makeshift memorial had been erected and began to sing a song with the refrain:

“You and me on a cloud and no one else,
            Playing the cards that we’re dealt.”

According to Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Sgt. Peter Simpson, at the same time that the suspect in this case, 53-year-old Jim Dean Patterson, was, on sober reflection, on his way to the police substation to surrender – other officers were coincidentally already en route to his home, based on a Crime Stopper tip.

Officials now accuse 53-year-old Jim Dean Patterson of the hit-and-run death of Jason Lee Grant.

“Thanks go to the media coverage – and to the public – for all the tips that were called in to the Crime Stoppers lines,” Simpson said. “Ultimately, Patterson saw the coverage on TV, which factored into his turning himself in.”

Patterson was arrested by Traffic Division investigators and he was lodged at Multnomah County Detention Center on two counts of Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver, Simpson added. “Patterson may face additional charges, after a Multnomah County Grand Jury hears the case.

“A green 2000 Toyota Tacoma pickup has been recovered from Patterson’s garage. The truck had damage consistent with this collision.”

According to MCDC records, Patterson is being held on $500,000 bail.

Perhaps a coincidence, but Police Traffic Division officers pulled over one vehicle after another for speeding and other infractions – during the vigil.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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