On July 8th, Portland Police officers arrested a Milwaukie man in a house on S.E. 80th near Gladstone Street for allegedly robbing a mail carrier in Southeast Portland. An alleged accomplice was also arrested at that time.
As reported in the July BEE, the postman had been delivering mail on S.E. 69th and Knight, one block north of Woodstock Boulevard, on June 20th, when an assailant brandishing a Taser stun gun attacked him. During the struggle, an accomplice reportedly stole two of the carrier's trays of mail. The thieves drove away, but not before the mail carrier was able to note the license plate number of the car.
Following the robbery, residents on that Mt. Scott neighborhood postal route were advised to watch for credit card and other identify theft. However, the stolen mail was subsequently recovered, according to Woodstock mail carrier Dave Whiting.
'My understanding is, they got it all back,' Whiting tells THE BEE.
Having been a mail carrier in normally-peaceful Woodstock for the past 20 years, Whiting was surprised when he first heard about the incident involving his co-worker, who picks up mail alongside Whiting at the Creston-Kenilworth Post Office. Although reports initially said the mail carrier was zapped with a Taser, later information revealed that the stun gun did not work. Authorities have not yet found the weapon, reports Dennis Fernald of the Portland office of the U.S. Postal Inspector, the federal agency which investigated the case.
Although mail is sometimes stolen, rarely, if ever, has a local mail carrier been threatened with a Taser. 'Usually, if someone comes up to you, you're expecting a question or directions,' says Whiting. 'I don't even know what a stun gun looks like.'
Tasers deliver strong electroshocks that induce severe muscle spasms, usually resulting in a temporary loss of balance. Portland Police carry them, as a less-lethal option to using a gun. The law also allows private citizens to buy them for self-defense. In such cases, Portland city code requires the purchaser to be over age 18, and without a felony conviction.
In her experience on patrol, Portland Police Officer Heidi Helwig, the newly appointed 'Neighborhood Response Team Officer' for Inner Solutheast, says she hasn't had any calls involving a person armed with a Taser or other stun gun--although she once did pull over a car and then saw a cattle prod in the glove compartment.
'We've always known they're out there,' muses Helwig. 'But I've never had a call where somebody used one. It is very unusual.'