Tipsy thief’s poor driving foils clean getaway

The accused caused thousands in damage to a business – and then wrecked his SUV during the chase. You’ll never guess what he actually trashed a store to steal …

Officers write up their reports, looking at the SUV that plowed through heavy brush and stuck a guard as the driver tried, unsuccessfully, to elude police.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Most folks in Sellwood were winding down, getting ready to settle into the four-day New Year’s weekend, late in the evening of Friday, December 28.

But on that evening, a man, sitting alone in a white 1998 Ford Explorer, outside a business at 8636 SE 17th Avenue in Sellwood, took a swig from a bottle of booze, perhaps screwing up the courage he needed to burglarize the shop he was eyeing.

At 10:06 p.m., police dispatch got a call from a citizen, reporting a man breaking into a lighting fixture business. As they got the description from the caller, dispatchers broadcast officers, asking them to be on the lookout for a white male, average height, late 30s in age, driving a white SUV.

After losing control of his truck, the banged-up bandit, accused of a Sellwood burglary, is strapped to a gurney.

Two minutes later, a patrol car spotted the truck, driving in the dark with its lights off, northbound on SE 17th Avenue, and started following it. At 10:10 p.m., another police officer spoted the truck – and the following patrol car – heading east on SE Tacoma Street, and picking up speed.

Officers reported that they spotted the driver throwing items out of his truck – perhaps a plastic bag and beer cans.

By now fleeing over the Tacoma Overpass, the SUV made a hard left turn on SE 25th Avenue, and squealed onto a business access road under the overpass, and just east of McLoughlin Boulevard. The driver lost control of his vehicle then, mowing down 20 feet of thick brush beside the street.

Cops say the tipsy thief being loaded into the ambulance got a ride to the hospital – with a police officer at his side.

The pursuit ended when the Explorer rammed, head-on, into the end of a thick, firmly rooted steel guardrail. Within minutes, the crew from Westmoreland’s Engine 20 was on-scene, extricating the tipsy thief.

Although he’s an accused drunk driver and burglar, the man was carefully secured on a backboard, strapped to a gurney, and rushed off to Adventist Medical Center – accompanied by a police officer.

41-year-old William Andrew Diamond is the guy police say racked up four charges within fifteen minutes, has a criminal record.

Adds to his criminal record
In addition to filling in details of this abbreviated crime spree, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz told us the alleged drunken thief is 41-year-old William Andrew Diamond. “He has established quite a record for himself,” he noted.

“He must have gotten banged up,” Schmautz added; “he didn’t get booked until the following day.”

Lynn Keller, partner in KH Lighting, Inc., says he can’t believe all the damage the botched burglary did to their business – which only netted the crook a roll of postage stamps.

Thousands in damage for – postage stamps
A few days after the incident, we visited the business, KH Lighting, Inc., formerly known as Keller’s Home Lighting, a Sellwood-based firm that has designed and manufactured custom lighting fixtures for many of the top architectural and design firms in the nation since 1964.

One of the business’ owners, Lynn Keller, greeted us as we enter. Plywood covered a broken-out 8′ x 8′ plate glass window in the front room.

“From what we can tell, he just picked up a rock and threw it through the window. The glass will cost about $450 to replace,” reported Keller. “And, he damaged the $2,000 worth of finished lighting fixtures he stumbled over.”

“What was stolen?” we asked.

“Of all things,” replies Keller, “A roll of postage stamps. We didn’t find anything else missing. My brother, David, is going to testify at the grand jury against him. I hope they put this guy away.”

After mowing down thick brush and saplings, the accused thief’s get-away car was heavily damaged as it struck a steel guard rail head-on.

Draws four charges
According to Sgt. Schmautz, Diamond is charged with Burglary in the 2nd Degree, Attempt to Elude Police Officers, Criminal Mischief in the 1st Degree, and Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired (DWII).

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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