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Suspect in deadly Portland hit-and-run rampage charged with murder

Paul Rivas, 64, is believed to have intentionally struck pedestrians and cyclists Monday, killing a 77-year-old woman.
Image: Image: car hits pedestrians
A driver struck and injured at least five people over a 20-block stretch of Southeast Portland, Ore., before crashing and fleeing, witnesses said, on Jan. 25, 2021.Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian via AP

An Oregon man who prosecutors say intentionally crashed his vehicle into pedestrians and cyclists, killing a grandmother of five and injuring others, was charged Wednesday with murder and other counts.

A motive in the rampage that began when a person was struck Monday afternoon was unclear, but police said the driver's actions showed an intent to strike and injure people.

Paul Rivas, 64, was charged with one count of murder in the second degree, seven counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver and six counts of assault in the second degree, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said in a statement.

Rivas appeared in court Wednesday, and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf, the district attorney's office said. He was appointed a public defender who declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Killed in the rampage was Jean Gerich, 77, who was hit by a Honda Element, which then made a U-turn and went onto the sidewalk, striking her a second time, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Rivas was arrested after crashing his Honda Element, fleeing on foot and being surrounded by bystanders, police said.

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After interviewing witnesses, police "learned Rivas appeared to be deliberately attempting to strike nearby vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians by swerving towards them while in the roadway and while on the sidewalk," the district attorney's office said in the statement. After each crash, the driver sped away, it said.

Rivas told police after his arrest that he was driving a Honda Element, and he acknowledged he was surrounded and arrested after crashing it, but he gave a series of explanations about the hit-and-runs, the probable cause affidavit said.

These included that he'd had brake problems and was looking for a shop; that a similar-looking Element could have hit them; and that he did hit a bicyclist but characterized it as an emergency maneuver to avoid a more serious crash, the affidavit said.