April 15th, 2010 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts, CLEAN UP

Read the Report: New Details in Westerman Road Rage Complaint


The victim of two road-rage encounters this year with the head of the Portland police union told a sheriff's deputy she believes the two encounters were connected, according to an internal Washington County Sheriff's Office memo.

The memo obtained by WW in a public-records request says Virginia Thompson told authorities her second encounter with Sgt. Scott Westerman "stemmed from an incident in SE Portland earlier in the week." According to the memo, Thompson also reported Portland police "refused to service her complaint."

And that all raises new questions about Westerman's off-duty road-rage incidents in January.

The back story: all parties agree that Westerman yelled at Virginia Thompson in her Smart car on the morning of Jan. 28 on the Glisan/Stark Street ramp off I-205. Westerman, president of the Portland Police Association, was out of uniform and driving his Pontiac Grand Am.

Two days later, Westerman again confronted Thompson — this time with her husband in the Smart car — across town on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Washington County, where Westerman says he was on his way to his son's soccer game. Westerman again exited his car and yelled at the Thompsons.

One of the unanswered questions about the incidents is the sheer improbability that Westerman would encounter the same car — and have a verbal altercation with the same woman — twice in 48 hours by mere chance. Westerman maintains he did not recognize Thompson or the Smart car from the first incident, and the fact he yelled at the same woman twice was pure coincidence.

Now for the first time, the Washington County memo indicates Thompson believes the second incident was a result of her first encounter with Westerman. Thompson declined to comment this morning to WW because of a pending internal-affairs investigation into the incidents.

Washington County Sheriff's Sgt. Mark Wilkinson responded to Thompson's 911 call. He determined that no crime or even traffic infraction was committed. But he wrote a report for Sheriff Rob Gordon on April 9, after media made inquiries about the incident.

Wilkinson's report (PDF) presents several pieces of new information about the case.

First, Wilkinson writes that Thompson said Portland police "refused to service her complaint" when she called in the first incident on Jan. 28. Wilkinson writes that he later spoke with a Portland police investigator who confirmed "Thompson did indeed try to report the incident and that she was turned away somehow."

Detective Mary Wheat, a spokeswoman for the Portland police, refutes that story. She says Thompson initially drove to East Precinct after the 7 a.m. incident on Jan. 28 — a Thursday — but the precinct was closed.

Wheat says Thompson then called the city non-emergency line, which sent the call to the Police Bureau's Telephone Reporting Unit. An officer in that unit told Thompson to call internal affairs and City Hall's Internal Police Review Division, and Thompson did so, Wheat says.

The next item of interest from Wilkinson's report addresses a fact first reported in The Oregonian — that authorities "for some reason that's unclear," as The O puts it, were unable to connect the license-plate number Thompson gave them with Westerman's car.

Wilkinson writes that he also ran the plate number on his computer and was told the plate was "not on file."

(Wilkinson writes that he later submitted a written request for information on the plate — he doesn't say to whom — and learned that the car "belongs to PPB Central Precinct and to a PPB officer." Most cops in Oregon have their vehicles registered to their workplace because some DMV records are public.)

When Wilkinson first saw the license was "not on file," he says it tripped alarm bells.

"This indicated to me that it belonged to a governmental agency for some type of official business," Wilkinson writes.

At this point, Wilkinson says he was concerned about three possibilities, in this order:

1. "Mrs. Thompson may be subject to an investigation in which she identified a car doing surveillance; hence, she was trying to get information from me that would hinder/harm an ongoing investigation."

2. "The investigator was doing a bad job at getting information from her."

3. "She truly experienced a rogue officer out of control on the road."

Wilkinson writes he advised Thompson to protect her safety by "not engaging the man (Westerman) in any conversation, staying away from him if possible and by calling 911 immediately."

Wilkinson had three follow-up conversations with Portland Police investigators about the case, according to the report. The third conversation involved the Internal Affairs investigation, including interviews with the Thompsons, Wilkinson writes.

"The investigator asked Mrs. Thompson if she wanted to press charges from the incident in Portland, she evidently did not and wanted the contacts to stop," Wilkinson writes.

"The investigator told me he believed the stories of both Mr. and Mrs. Thompson," Wilkinson continues. "He still had more work to do and I have not talked to him since, it has been about two months now."
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