PORTLAND -- Dave Dahl, co-founder of the extremely popular Dave’s Killer Bread, grabbed headlines this month after he was arrested for a rampage that included smashing his Cadillac Escalade into sheriff’s deputies and intimidating employees at the bread factory in Milwaukie.
The following morning in court, Dahl’s attorney Stephen Houze called the incident a clear “mental health crisis.”
Dahl is no stranger to mental health issues. In 2011, he spoke candidly in a Clackamas County public access special aimed at starting a conversation to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness called Open Minds, Open Doors.
In the program, which was later made into a series of TV spots that ran last year, Dahl tells his story of overcoming mental illness to become a prominent Portland-area business leader. He speaks openly about getting locked up four times for drug possession, burglary, assault and armed robbery.
“I wasn’t supposed to make it. In my mind I was not supposed to be taken through this and figure it out, and I have,” Dahl said in the PSA.
In the interview, Dahl said it was crippling depression that made him turn to drugs and eventually crime.
“I think I was probably 10 or 11, 12 years old when I found that I started getting miserable, and I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do about it. I thought life was bad, so that’s why I was mad,” he said. “You know, I used drugs to help me feel better.”
Dahl said he felt stupid, unintelligent and didn’t know how to overcome his depression because of the stigmas around mental illness.
“I stumbled on methamphetamine, and that just sent me down a road of destruction,” he said in the interview. “On my fourth trip to prison, I hit my very bottom, bottom.”
After bottoming out, Dahl decided to fill out a “kite,” which is a note to prison officials that conveys potentially sensitive information. Dahl, however, wasn’t giving information about other inmates. He was clearing his own conscience.
Dahl was subsequently released and in 2005, along with his brother and nephew, started the hugely successful bread company.
“I haven’t really had a bad day since I did that, and I love every minute of every day,” Dahl said in the Clackamas County PSA. “It’s pretty obvious when you look at my life that anybody can change because I really was the last person that you would think would be here now.”
Dave’s Killer Bread also used Dahl’s narrative of redemption to market its product. Fans of the nutrient-packed organic loaves were consistently reminded of Dahl’s remarkable transformation.
Last year, Dave's Killer Bread sold a 50-percent stake in the company to New York equity firm Goode Partners and analysts expected $50 million in loaves would sell this year.
When news broke of Dahl’s alleged transgression, the public was eager to know what happened.
On the evening of Nov. 14, police scanners crackled with reports that a man was wrecking into deputies’ cruisers in Washington County after a woman called police asking for help. According to court documents, police were originally called to the home because a man was having a mental breakdown.
That man was Dave Dahl.
After spending more than 24 hours in jail and getting formally charged with attempted second-degree assault, an “extremely fragile” Dahl was released on bail outside the Washington County Jail.
Houze, who picked Dahl up outside of jail, will be standing next to his client two days after Christmas for his preliminary hearing, and from all indications, he will try to show his client’s actions were the result of a mental breakdown.