Felon arrested for pole-swinging incident in NW Portland

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Crowd of bystanders 'exacerbated' the arrest, police said

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man who was caught on camera swinging a pole at a person in late July was Tased, pepper sprayed and hit with non-lethal rounds during his arrest after police said bystanders made a bad situation worse Sunday in Northwest Portland.

Investigators connected Robert Banks, 53, to a social media video of a man swinging a pole at someone who was crossing the road at NW 23rd Avenue and Flanders in July. Officials with PPB said they also linked Banks to at least 10 different reports of a man threatening people with sticks and other objects, sometimes swinging the weapons at passers-by.

“They learned that the suspect was generating a lot of calls in that area, a lot of concerning behavior where he was swinging things at people, threatening people, swinging sticks and pipes things like that,” said PPB Sgt. Kevin Allen.

But when officers began to make the arrest around noon on Sunday, Allen said, Banks became hostile, picked up a broken shovel and used it as a weapon. Police spent an hour trying to de-escalate the situation, even using his friends and his probation officer to talk him down.

“One of the things we’ve tried to do over the years is to try and slow things down, use time as a tactic, use our communication skills,” Allen said.

But as this was happening, an aggressive crowd of bystanders began to intervene, authorities said.

Robert Banks, September 20, 2021 (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office)

“That created a challenge for the officers because people were injecting themselves in this call without really understanding the full context of what took place,” Allen said.

The crowd exacerbated the situation, he said and that’s when officers ended up using a Taser, pepper spray and an impact munition to get him into custody.

“What we ask if people come across a situation where police are involved and there’s something going on: Give us time to do our job, perform our role, and then ask questions later,” Allen told KOIN 6 News.

Court records show the 53-year-old has a lengthy criminal history, including prison time. Banks has been homeless for about a year-and-a-half. He reported having post-traumatic stress disorder and used drugs.

Banks’ ex-wife and adult son spoke with KOIN 6 News by phone on Monday. Their trip to Portland had been planned for some time in an effort to get him off the streets and into housing. But they said they were shocked to learn of his behavior.

His ex-wife said they split up decades ago and that he’d spent at least 15 years in prison and has struggled to re-integrate into society ever since.

PPB said Banks was examined by paramedics and had no serious injuries.

Banks was charged with unlawful use of a weapon in connection to the July 22 stick assault on camera and a felony parole violation.

Officers aren’t sure if the victim from the July video was injured, but they would like to speak with them. The victim, or anyone who knows the name of the victim, is asked to e-mail crimetips@portlandoregon.gov – Attention Central NRT, and reference case number 21-220133.

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