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Police continue to investigate motives in fatal Southeast Portland hit-and-run

Updated at 3:25 p.m. Jan. 26 — Portland police said Tuesday they are still investigating a series of hit-and-run vehicle collisions that left one person dead Monday.

Police said that of the 10 people who were injured in the sprawling Southeast Portland incident, two were cyclists and seven were pedestrians. One person suffered a head injury and as a result, can’t remember if they were in their car or not when they were hit. Multiple calls about erratic driving and pedestrians being hit were received around 1 p.m. Monday as the driver allegedly drove at a high rate of speed across dozens of blocks.

Police identified the woman who was killed as 77-year-old Portland resident Jean Gerich.

In a statement, Gerich’s family said she was a loving mother of two.

“She was a proud grandmother of five, ages 4 to 16,” the family said. “She would have turned 78 in 12 days. She beat cancer five years ago. She received her first vaccination shot last week and was overjoyed to get out in the world again. She has lived in the city of Portland since 1972 and for those 48 years she has loved her community of friends, Forest Park, and the proximity to nature.”

Gerich’s family said they were grateful for the witnesses who were at the scene.

The Portland Police Bureau said the crime scene covers an area between Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Southeast 15th Avenue, from East Burnside Street to Southeast Belmont Street.

Law enforcement hasn’t identified the suspect yet and said he is still hospitalized. Detectives said that while the attacks appear to be intentional, they don’t believe they were motivated by politics or bias.

One of the witnesses to the car attack, Arun Gupta, heard a bicyclist get hit and saw the gray Honda Element driving away from the scene.

Gupta said a bike courier was struck on 18th between Washington and Stark, a woman was struck on Stark between 17th and 18th, and Gerich was struck on 19th at Southeast Washington before the car turned around and struck her a second time.

“She was struck once, knocked up on the sidewalk ... and then the car did a U-turn, came up on the sidewalk, struck her and dragged her down to Stark and 19th,” Gupta said.

A man standing in front of his home on 19th Avenue told Gupta the car aimed straight at him and pinned him up against the building.

According to the Portland Police, the driver of the car initially “fled on foot.” Police said community members who saw the crash near SE Stark and 18th “corralled the suspect until officers arrived on scene and took him into custody.”

“The multiple hit and run crashes by the same suspect yesterday were traumatic for our community,” said Police Chief Chuck Lovell. “We are committed to a full investigation so that the person involved can be held accountable for these senseless acts of violence.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jonathan Levinson