Editor’s note: Some of the details in this story may be too graphic for some readers.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man facing a slew of charges in a deadly hit-and-run rampage in Southeast Portland hit a 77-year-old woman with his car before doing a U-turn and then running her over a second time, according to court documents.
Paul Rivas was in court on Wednesday, two days after allegedly hitting and killing Jean Gerich and injuring at least six other people.
Rivas, whose last address was listed in Oregon City, was finally stopped after he crashed his vehicle and was surrounded by a group of residents before being taken into custody, according to police and video from the scene.
The court documents detail the chaos of the scene Monday afternoon when Portland Police Bureau officers arrived at SE Stark between SE 17th and SE 19th in the Laurelhurst neighborhood for multiple reports of a Honda Element “intentionally striking” people. Officers said they found a Honda Element that had crashed into a black Chevrolet El Camino on Stark Street.
They observed one victim — later identified as Gerich, a grandmother and cancer survivor — suffering from critical injuries that would later be fatal, and saw Rivas in the road being followed and surrounded by bystanders, according to the Multnomah County probable cause affidavit.
An officer spoke with a witness who reported that before she was hit, Gerich was on a sidewalk near SE 19th and Stark. According to the court documents, the witness left his home after hearing a loud crash and noticed Gerich “visibly injured” and a vehicle driving away.
“He then observed the vehicle do a rapid U-turn and turn back toward Ms. Gerich,” according to the affidavit, and when the car drove back toward the woman, “it moved from the street to the sidewalk, striking her a second time, running her over, and dragging her underneath the vehicle. The witness indicated that he believed that Ms. Gerich was struck intentionally.”
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The affidavit also revealed what Rivas told investigators during an interview after he was read his Miranda rights.
Detectives were allegedly told by Rivas at times his Honda Element, which he admitted to owning and driving by himself, was having brake problems and he had been looking “for an open auto repair shop.” However, Rivas also allegedly told investigators the victims could have been injured by “another, similar looking, Honda Element that wasn’t driven by him.”
Detectives were also told by Rivas that he had seen a pedestrian on the sidewalk, “but claimed that he didn’t actually strike the pedestrian and that a different vehicle had struck the pedestrian” after he had driven by, according to the affidavit. Rivas allegedly also admitted to hitting a bicyclist with his Honda Element, but told officers the crash was “an emergency maneuver he made to avoid a more serious collision with oncoming traffic.”
‘Tragedy is never fair’
The court documents also detail the harrowing ordeal experienced by those who survived their injuries in the hit-and-run rampage.
One survivor told an officer she had been walking in Laurelhurst Park and saw a “square style Honda SUV doing u-turns nearby. The next thing she knew she woke up in the hospital after sustaining a head injury that rendered her unconscious,” according to the affidavit.
Another survivor whose account was listed in Wednesday’s probable cause affidavit told a detective he had moved off the sidewalk on SE Stark Street and into the road to avoid being hit by a Honda Element driving on the sidewalk, after making eye contact with the driver, but had still been hit by the vehicle and had an injured right foot and lower leg.
He said he saw the Honda Element crash into a black car, and saw the driver leave the vehicle, when he and other bystanders “chased after the driver until they were able to corral him,” according to the affidavit.
Ray Chihak told KOIN 6 News he was also targeted by the driver. He said he and his friend had just finished a bike ride Monday afternoon and were standing outside his apartment when they spotted a Honda Element traveling erratically at SE 19th Avenue and SE Washington Street.
Chihak said the driver did a U-turn, then drove onto the sidewalk and accelerated, leading Chihak to think the driver was having a medical emergency or the vehicle was malfunctioning. But Chihak said he quickly realized the person behind the wheel intended to hurt them.
“My friend managed to get out of the way, the car got me with the corner of the front bumper and kinda pinned me against the wall of my apartment, then we ended up parallel,” said Chihak. He said he ended up on the ground and the suspect continued on before making a U-turn and coming back toward him.
“I managed to kinda run up the stairs, the back stairs to my apartment to safety,” he said.
Now, two days after the experience, Chihak said he still hasn’t left his house. He said he was treated for minor injuries at a hospital and has been sore but his friends have been very supportive.
“I’m kinda stuck at how impersonal it felt to have somebody, kind of, to my perception murder me,” he said. “It would be nice to know why but at the same time you can’t necessarily make sense of everything. You can spend all day trying.”
Chihak lives across the street from where a makeshift memorial was created for Gerich.
“I just look at it from inside my house. I think it’s really, really touching,” he said. “I just hope her family is okay, tragedy is never fair.”
Rivas pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges, including second-degree murder and six counts of second-degree assault, before a judge on Wednesday afternoon. He’s due back in court on Feb. 4.