Fleeing driver turns minor infraction into a major wreck

It sounded like an explosion, when his car flipped and tore through a utility pole, neighbors say. See why running from the cops – or from an OSP Trooper – can end up as shown in our exclusive photos …

This Chrysler 3000 has driven its last mile. Amazingly, the driver took off on foot after it landed here.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not many folks were out for a drive, late at night on December 14, as a thick, freezing fog crept in over much of East Portland.

But, a northeast Portland man was out cruising I-205 when an Oregon State Police (OSP) trooper noticed his driving wasn’t up to par. Instead of stopping when he was signaled to pull over, the driver took off, and tried to ditch the trooper just off SE Division Street.  He ended up wrecking the car he was driving.

Noted for minor infractions
“At 11:37 p.m., OSP Senior Trooper Brandi Zeckman attempted to stop a 2006 Chrysler 3000 sedan for failing to travel within a lane, and for an unsignaled lane change on Interstate 205,” Public Information Officer Lieutenant Gregg Hastings told us.

Instead of stopping, Hastings said, the driver took the SE Division Street exit and headed east, going about 40 mph on SE Division, and then made a quick right turn on to SE 101st Avenue. The fleeing driver stepped on the gas, hitting about 50 mph – before he realized his ill-conceived get-away was foiled at the street’s dead end.  That was just before he hit something else.

“The trooper was approaching the dead end area when the car made a U-turn and drove towards the patrol car,” Hastings said. “The trooper moved to the right side of the road as the car sped past at a high rate of speed and the trooper lost sight of it.”

It doesn’t seem possible that anyone could have survived this crash. But, the trooper and police officers found the car empty, when they arrived on scene.

Went flying like a stunt driver
A neighbor who asked not to be identified said, “I saw the Chrysler shoot [north] across Division Street [on SE 101st Avenue]. The car went flying through the air – something like you’d see a stunt driver do in the movies. Obviously, he didn’t know there’s a steep drop-off hill there.”

As the trooper approached SE Division Street after turning around, she saw smoke coming from the area. The trooper saw what shook some neighbors out of their beds: The car had struck and sheared off a power pole, hit two unoccupied parked vehicles, and then overturned.

“It sounded like an explosion,” said neighbor Jamie Markley. “We thought something blew up out here; it almost shook us out of bed.”

The force of the impact snapped this fully-loaded utility pole like a twig. Only the wires above hold the upper portion in place.

Driver flees on foot
Instead of finding a bloodied car crash victim, the trooper discovered that driver had somehow gotten out of the overturned car and fled the scene.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officers, including a police dog K9 unit, quickly cordoned off the area and started searching for the delinquent driver. Amazingly, the suspect made his way through yards, heading northeast, for about four blocks.
“With the help of witnesses who had called 9-1-1, the suspect was found minutes later on SE 104th Avenue at SE 104th Court,” stated Hastings.

Officials say this suspect, Robert Joseph Gilliam III, is now facing multiple charges in connection with a late-night joyride that ended upside down.

“Robert Joseph Gilliam III, age 29, from northeast Portland, was taken into custody,” Hastings reported. “He had minor scratches, and was first transported to Portland Adventist Hospital for a quick medical evaluation, and then to Multnomah County Jail – where he was lodged for Felony Attempt to Elude, Reckless Driving, and Hit and Run with Property Damage.  He was also cited for Driving While Suspended.

“Additional charges may be pending.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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