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Mistake by cleaning crew allowed man to escape Portland police custody

David Dahlen was arrested for allegedly hitting an officer with a pickup truck on Christmas Eve. He was in custody for a few hours before escaping a holding room.
Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
David Dahlen

PORTLAND, Ore. — A man who escaped Portland police custody on Saturday got out of a holding room after a cleaning crew mistakenly did not shut and latch the door, police said.

David Dahlen, 24, was in a holding room at the Justice Center in downtown Portland and waiting to be interviewed by detectives when he escaped. 

Police said two members of a contracted cleaning crew were doing COVID-19 disinfecting in the detective division and opened the door to the holding room, then closed it again after they realized Dahlen was in the room.

Investigators believe that the door did not fully latch after it was closed. Dahlen pushed the door from the inside and got out, police said. From there, Dahlen made his way to a stairwell, which was unlocked for fire safety, and got out of the building. 

Dahlen allegedly struck Officer Jennifer Pierce with a stolen pickup near Southeast 39th Avenue and Powell Boulevard on Christmas Eve. At some point during the incident, the officer fired her weapon. 

Pierce, a 15-year police veteran, suffered a broken pelvis. The driver of the pickup fled the scene before abandoning the vehicle a couple of miles away. 

Then at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, police located and arrested Dahlen following a short foot chase near Southeast 101st Avenue and Insley Street. 

He was picked up on warrants for first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and assaulting a public safety officer, among other charges, and was taken to the Justice Center. 

Search efforts are underway to recapture Dahlen, and police are asking for the public's help in locating him. Police said they have no reason to believe he poses a direct threat to the public. 

Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
David Dahlen

Dahlen stands at 5-foot-8 and weighs about 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a green long sleeve shirt, blue jeans and white tennis shoes. Police said he had a "noticeable amount of dried mud" on his clothing. 

Anyone who sees him is asked not to approach him but to call 911 right away. 

The police bureau said it plans to review its policy on holding cells.