PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Patrick Cunningham was delivering a pizza during his DoorDash shift Saturday night when he stopped to help a pedestrian who had been hit by a driver and later died from her injuries.
But he said Portland police officer rammed his car and arrested him in a case of mistaken identity during the investigation. Cunningham said his kids and fiancée were also in the car when officers pinned the family in with their patrol cars and pulled out their weapons.
It began when a middle-aged woman was hit by a driver who fled the scene at SE Stark and 136th shortly before 7 p.m.
Cunningham, who said he worked as a firefighter before, said he and his family saw people on the side of the road point at a woman lying in the street. So they stopped, put on their hazard lights and got out to to help. He said the woman wasn’t talking but he saw her take a few breaths and they called 911,
After the EMTs arrived, they began emergency aid and police had also arrived. Since he and his family didn’t witness the crash and since law enforcement was there with EMTs, Cunningham decided to leave to make his pizza delivery.
He said he’s not sure exactly what happened after that, but said officers must have mistaken them for the suspect. After they had traveled about 10 blocks, Cunningham said he watched a patrol car pass them, turn around and start following them.
The police lights came on and Cunningham said he was pulling over and putting his hazard lights on. But rather than just doing a regular traffic stop, they rammed his car and pulled out their guns.
“Guns were drawn, pointed at me, my fiancée and our three girls in the back of the car,” he said.
“She yelled out the window, ‘We have kids in the car!'”
He said he complied with every request, “from the blue lights being turned on. I complied, I was pulling over. Easing off to the right hand of the shoulder. I even turned my hazard lights on,” he said. “After the police officers pretty much realized I wasn’t the one to hit that woman, everyone started apologizing. They started going up to her apologizing, offering stickers and teddy bears to the kids. One officer offered to take the food and finish the DoorDash for us, which he did do.”
Cunningham was grateful the officer made the pizza delivery so he and his family could go home.
He also said the police told them they’d be reimbursed for damages to the family car, but he said this was traumatic and they’re considering legal action.
“Have 2 police vehicles ram your car, that seems over-excessive, in the least,” he said.
“I don’t know if Portland protocol on traffic stops now to, you know, drive into the vehicle,” he said with a chuckle. “But, I’m more than sure that’s not police policy.”
Portland Police Lt. Greg Pashley told KOIN 6 News that the “box-in” technique they used on Cunningham is a common practice police use to ensure suspects don’t drive away from a traffic stop.
“Officers addressed the car, briefly took the driver into custody and pretty through their investigation realized … that this really is somebody else who left the scene, not a suspect.”
Cunningham said this experience wouldn’t deter the family from being a Good Samaritan again. They felt staying with the woman was the right thing to do.
“If it was me,” his fiancée Jessica O’Donoghue said, “I would want someone to do that for me.