Of timely websites, and an ancient police pursuit

A monthly newspaper is inherently handicapped in the swift reporting of 'breaking news'. We at THE BEE do try to update you on all that has happened during the previous month in each issue; but now, the Internet provides us with a way of giving you preliminary information on significant local news events as they happen, while still going on to report them in depth in the next monthly issue of THE BEE.

Nowadays, when an important local story potentially impacting a large number of readers occurs, we post a story on it on our Internet websites. Yes, that's plural - websites. We still offer our original website at, with all that month's stories posted on just four long pages, with more and larger pictures than our newer website yet accommodates; but our newer site,, has all the same stories, organized quite differently, each on its own page. It is also searchable for past stories, going back to when the site debuted in the middle of last year.

After proudly telling you about how we cover breaking news online, perhaps we now might turn, and take a moment to recount a news event that happened about fifteen years ago in Inner Southeast Portland. Better late than never!

Although your editor has been on the job here in the newspaper business for only seven years, his news background in broadcast journalism goes way back to 1967 - and, in the 1990's, now living in Westmoreland but not just then reporting news for anybody, as a veteran newsman he still liked to stay informed about events going on here.

Thus it was, that on a Friday evening near twilight, he witnessed part of the strangest, most unusual police pursuit ever. Since it was a Friday night, the TV stations, going on weekend shifts, missed it; the daily newspaper overlooked it; and there was not even anything about it at that time in THE BEE. It's old news now, but still -- any resident who was here then and saw it probably still remembers it! So, here's what we were able to find out about it at the time, which has till now never been reported.

It began with a radio call by a police officer reporting that he was attempting to stop a van eastbound, in Brooklyn, on S.E. Powell Boulevard. He then reported that it failed to stop, turned around, headed west on Powell, picking up speed, and then turned south on Milwaukie, and that he was now 'in pursuit'.

Right off the bat, there were two very odd things about this pursuit. When the dispatcher asked him what the person in the van was wanted for, he said 'looting'. That is the only time in our nearly 30 years in Portland we have heard police describe a subject as wanted for that. Usually, looting is associated with riots, but no riot was underway in Inner Southeast Portland then! We never did find out what the bad guy had done that would lead to a charge of 'looting'.

The second strange thing about this pursuit was that, the officer told the dispatcher, the van had no tires.

Now, this was not an abandoned vehicle the officer had found; it had not run over a spike strip; it was being driven in traffic when he tried to stop it, and from the beginning it had no tires.

A van running on rims not only does not have as much traction as normal, but it has a much smaller diameter wheel with respect to the road, so even putting pedal to the metal, wheels spinning, it is not going to go very fast.

Several other police cruisers caught up to the pursuit and joined in, heading south on Milwaukie Avenue through Brooklyn, and toward Westmoreland. Realizing that if the chase did not change course, it would be passing his street shortly, your editor bounded out of his house, looked west -- and indeed saw the van with no tires loudly grinding along Milwaukie Avenue, followed closely by NINE police cars, all with sirens blaring.

The pursuit, the slowest we have witnessed, was running no faster than 25 miles an hour, though the crook almost certainly was holding the accelerator to the floor, and wasn't stopping for anything.

As the sirens wailed south out of sight towards the Westmoreland business district, your editor, wishing he had at that time a media outlet to report this weird event to, went back into the house and listened to the rest of the pursuit on the police radio. It lasted over a half hour more, making it one of the longer pursuits he has ever followed. (And one which, certainly, could not have been ended by the use of spike strips!)

The radio reports indicated the tediously slow pursuit had continued past Bybee (the van ignored the traffic light there, and at Tacoma), then south on 17th thorough and beyond Sellwood. At that point it left the neighborhood, but it was far from over.

For the next half hour, after the van turned off Highway 224, it went around and around in a neighborhood of Milwaukee. Evidently the bandit was lost, and could not find the way out. For Milwaukie residents, the peculiar pursuit became an evening of entertainment; officers started reporting they were passing such-and-such an address 'AGAIN', and apparently the good people of Milwaukie had begun pulling chairs out on porches to watch the van and the police cars pass their houses every few minutes, like a parade.

Eventually the van driver tried to get out of the loop, and turned into a dead-end road that led to a field. At that point, he bailed out and apparently escaped. The officers searched for him in vain.

We confirmed with the Portland Police the following Monday that it all had happened as we had heard, but no details were made available to us, and we never learned why the charge had been looting, why the van had no tires, who the driver was, and whether he was ever arrested.

But the story was too good not to share; and now, fifteen years later, we finally managed to find a way tell you about it: One of the weirdest police pursuits anywhere, and it happened right here, in Inner Southeast Portland.

And if you, dear reader, should happen to know the rest of THAT particular story, we'd love you to share it!