DWII driver deliberately mows down pedestrians

Witnesses say this driver took aim – and struck neighbors who were begging the driver to slow down, on their residential street …

A police officer looks at the wreckage left behind at this outer East Portland crash in the Hazelwood neighborhood, which sent two men to the hospital.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Family and neighbors watched in horror as 2016 Chevrolet Impala sedan drove into three people standing in SE 97th Avenue near SE Ankeny Street at about 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2.

“My son and grandson were outside, in front of their apartments, working on their cars,” recalled family spokesperson Tara Smith, who was called to the narrow, lightly-traveled side street that runs between East Burnside and Stark streets.

“The driver was racing up and down the street a couple of times today, and they nicely asked him to stop doing it, because children lived in the apartments,” Smith told East Portland News.

Neighbors and family members tell this officer how they tried to slow down a man, who’d been driving wildly up and down their street.

When the driver kept racing up and down the block, the two men, and a couple of neighbors tried a different tactic. “They went out in the middle of the street to try to stop him, and the guy ran them over, hit cars parked on the side of the street, and drove away,” Smith exclaimed.

Less than five minutes after the first call to the 9-1-1 Center, the Portland Fire & Rescue Mt. Tabor Station 19 Rescue unit arrived and began to assess injuries to the victims.

This lightly-used side street is closed off while investigators gather evidence regarding the crash.

“Of the three persons struck, one received minor injuries and was not medically treated, another was taken by family members to a hospital for evaluation, and the third person experienced serious, but non-life-threatening injuries, and was transported to an area hospital by ambulance,” reported Portland Police Bureau Public (PPB) Information Officer Sergeant Chris Burley.

Witnesses told police the Impala appeared to be badly damaged, with airbags deployed, and was last seen heading south on SE 97th Avenue.

Police find the now-smashed car not far away, parked in the lot of a Gateway District motel.

“Officers located the suspect and his vehicle at the Chestnut Tree Inn, at 9699 SE Stark Street, and observed significant front-end damage to the vehicle,” Burley said.

The PPB Traffic Division Major Crash Team also responded to the scene to help with the investigation. Confirming Smith’s report, Burley said, “People were standing on the west side of SE 97th Avenue, requesting the suspect slow down. Shortly after this occurred, the suspect drove his vehicle into the crowd.”

The emergency lights on this Chevy, triggered when the airbags went off during the crash, still flash on this now-wrecked car.

The preliminary investigation suggested speed and impairment may have been a factor in the incident, Burley said, in what appears to be a deliberate act to crash into a group of people.

22-year-old Henry Nikila II is arrested and arraigned on multiple misdemeanor and felony charges in connection with this crash. MCDC booking photo

At 11:32 p.m. that evening, 22-year-old Henry Nikila II was booked in to the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) on the following charges:

  • Assault in the Second Degree, Reckless Endangering (three counts),
  • Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver,
  • Property Damage (three counts),
  • Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver, Injury (three counts), and
  • Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants.

During his arraignment in Multnomah County Court, the judge dismissed three of the misdemeanor charges, but plenty remain. Nikila remains in custody at Inverness Jail, in lieu of $285,000 bail.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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