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Tipsy Sellwood thiefs poor driving foils getaway

Smash -- then Crash
by: David F. Ashton, Officers write up their reports, looking at the SUV that plowed through heavy brush and stuck a guardrail, as the driver unsuccessfully tried to elude police.

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 28th.

But, right about 10 pm, a man, sitting alone in a white 1998 Ford Explorer, outside a business at 8636 S.E. 17th Avenue, took a swig from a bottle of booze - perhaps gathering up the courage he needed to burglarize the shop he was eyeing.

At 10:06 pm, 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 to officers, asking them to be on the lookout for a white male, average height, late 30s in age, driving a white SUV.

Two minutes later, a Portland Police patrol car spotted the truck, driving in the dark with its lights off, northbound on S.E. 17th Avenue, and started following it. At 10:10 pm, another police officer spotted the truck - and the patrol car behind it - now heading east on S.E. Tacoma Street, and picking up speed.

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

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

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

The accused drunk driver and burglar was carefully secured on a backboard, strapped to a gurney, and rushed off to Adventist Medical Center - accompanied by a police officer.

In addition to filling in details for THE BEE of this abbreviated crime spree, Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz told us the alleged drunken thief was identified as 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.'

Thousands in damage to steal....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 entered. 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 us about $450 to replace,' reported Keller. 'And, he also 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.'

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).