Portland car thief jumps in ice cold Columbia River to flee police, captured with hypothermia

PORTLAND, OR – It wasn’t quite the polar bear plunge, but a car thief thought it would a bright idea to go for a swim in the Columbia River to get away from police on Saturday.

Police reported that on December 12, 2020, at 10:40 p.m., an officer from the North Precinct was in the area of Northeast Cornfoot Road and Northeast Alderwood Road when he observed a green 1997 Subaru Legacy parked in a westbound lane facing eastbound. The officer ran the plate and learned the vehicle was stolen.

The officer attempted to stop the vehicle at which point the vehicle accelerated. For the safety of the public, the officer did not attempt to pursue or catch up to the vehicle.

An officer from another agency advised dispatch he observed the vehicle driving northbound in the southbound lanes on Northeast 82nd Ave through the Northeast Alderwood Road intersection toward Northeast Airport way, running the red light.

The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Air Support Unit located the vehicle traveling eastbound on Northeast Airport Way at speeds as high as 100 MPH, while surfing through traffic and not being pursued by police vehicles. The vehicle then drove onto a pedestrian/bike path leading from Northeast Airport Way to Northeast Marine Drive. The vehicle drove down a gravel road near the riverbank and stopped. The PPB Air Support Unit reported seeing a subject exit the vehicle and begin to unload it. As patrol cars arrived in the area the suspect fled on foot.

The suspect ran toward the riverbank and entered the water (outdoor temperature was 42 degrees with 10 to 15 MPH winds). The suspect attempted to swim toward the middle of the river. Officers contacted the suspect who eventually exited the water and was placed in custody.

The suspect was identified as 23-year-old Trevon Wade Gilliand. It was determined Gilliand would need to be treated at a hospital for possible hypothermia. Gilliand was issued a citation for Unlawful Use of a Motor Vehicle, Attempt to Elude, and Reckless Driving.