Attempted murder suspect escapes after cleaners leave his cell door open

Oregon man made opportunistic getaway after being detained for allegedly driving a stolen truck into a police officer.

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Police mugshot of David Michael Dahlen III
David Michael Dahlen III
(Portland Police Bureau)

An Oregon man being held on suspicion of trying to kill a cop made an unlikely escape at the weekend – he simply walked out of his cell after a coronavirus cleaning crew left the door unlocked.

David Dahlen, 24, was arrested Saturday for allegedly driving a stolen pickup into a police officer at a Portland gas station on Christmas Eve, leaving her with serious injuries.

But as the suspect languished in a holding cell at the Portland Justice Center awaiting a police interview ahead of being booked into the county jail, a Covid cleaning team accidentally entered the room and then left without properly shutting the door, the Portland Police Bureau said in a news release Monday.

“It looks like the cleaning crew opened the holding cell, thinking nobody was in there, and then noticed, ‘Oh, there’s someone in there,’ and shut the door. But the door may not have latched all the way,” Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis told The Oregonian.

Investigators believe Dahlen simply pushed the door open and exited the building through a stairwell, which had been left unlocked for fire safety reasons.

Moments later, detectives who went to check on him discovered that he had gone.

The building was immediately locked down and a search begun, but the detainee had already vanished.

Surveillance video showed Dahlen running away from the building. However, despite conducting a thorough search of downtown and monitored public transit, police were unable to locate him.

The fugitive remained at large on Tuesday, and now has an extra charge for escape to add to his tally.

The Portland Police Bureau promised an internal review of holding cell procedures to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

Dahlen is suspected of ramming a stolen pickup truck into Portland police officer Jennifer Pierce at a gas station, pinning her between the truck and her patrol car, according to witnesses.

Pierce, a 15-year police veteran, then fired her gun at the stolen vehicle after the driver reversed and struck her a second time, The Oregonian reported. She suffered a fractured pelvis but has since been discharged from hospital.

Dahlen faces a slew of charges, including attempted murder, first-degree assault, attempt of assault on a public safety officer, unlawful use of a motor vehicle and second-degree escape.

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