Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty issues statement on controversial Lyft ride
As news of Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s controversial Lyft ride home from a Washington casino continued to spread around the country and internationally, Hardesty issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday night, addressed to “Portland.”
“I felt it necessary to speak directly to you to answer further questions about what happened,” she wrote.
Hardesty had called for a Lyft ride home Nov. 1 from the ilani Casino Resort in Ridgefield, Wash. After an initial mixup on where the driver would find Hardesty waiting, Hardesty and the driver argued over whether he could keep the windows on the front driver’s and passenger sides cracked open.
Richmond Frost, the driver, told The Oregonian/OregonLive last week, that he had the windows cracked open as a safeguard during the coronavirus pandemic, according to company policy. Hardesty wanted the windows closed.
Frost canceled the call, took the next exit off of Interstate 5 south and drove to a Chevron gas station, where he asked Hardesty to get out of his car and call for another ride.
When Hardesty refused to leave the car, the trip ended with dueling calls to 911 and a request from Hardesty for police to respond, even though a dispatcher repeatedly told her that no crime had been committed and she was the only one who could call for another Lyft driver.
Hardesty, who heads Portland’s emergency dispatch bureau and is a vocal proponent of police reform, cutting Portland’s police budget and reducing 911 calls for police service, wrote in her statement, “As you know, I do not take calling 911 lightly, and I would never do so without thinking through all the options that I had.”
She wrote that she faced the “potential of being stranded alone, late at night by the side of the highway at a closed gas station. The possible outcomes of both those situations were not only terrifying, but possibly deadly. With the limited options, I determined I’d be safest if I called 911 and explained the situation to the operator.”
Hardesty dialed 911 at 9:48 p.m. from the back seat. Two Ridgefield police officers responded to her call, pulling up behind Frost’s car at 9:57 p.m., as another Lyft driver that Hardesty ultimately did call also arrived simultaneously, according to dispatch records.
The Chevron station’s convenience store closes at 10 p.m. but the station’s night lights remain on because the pumps are available through credit card use 24 hours a day, a clerk said.
Frost said he took Hardesty to the lit-up gas station and didn’t leave her stranded on the side of the road. He said she was rude the moment she got into his car, angry that he hadn’t immediately found her by a side entrance of the casino, and then went “ballistic,” when he wouldn’t close the front windows fully.
In Hardesty’s new statement, she wrote that she had heightened concern as a “well-recognized Black woman traveling alone late at night in Washington,” considering what she called “months of white supremacists taking to the streets and terrorizing community members.”
There have been several days of clashes during the summer and fall between far-right demonstrators and far-left counter protesters in the city, in Salem and in nearby Vancouver, Wash. There also have been months of social justice and anti-police brutality demonstrations in Portland, with many nights ending in nightly vandalism and violence to police, government buildings and retail businesses.
Hardesty wrote that she’s received death threats to her home and office, “whether it’s people leaving horse manure on my doorstep or shooting bullets at my office window,” and she didn’t want to become a “target for a whole host of bad outcomes,” if she had to get out of Frost’s car.
A staff member discovered a bullet struck a window panel in Hardesty’s City Hall office on Oct. 21, according to Lokyee Au, a spokeswoman for the commissioner. The bullet strike was reported then to City Hall security, Au said.
“We are all under a lot of stress right now and we’re not our perfect selves every minute of the day, but I appreciate the questions and messages of concern I’ve received,” Hardesty wrote.
Read her full statement:
*By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian/OregonLive*