PORTLAND — Paul Rivas, a 64-year-old motorist accused of mowing down pedestrians, bicyclists and killing a 77-year-old woman during Monday’s erratic 15-block rampage in Southeast Portland, gave detectives bizarre explanations for what occurred when questioned the next day, according to court documents.
Rivas, who at one time had a Woodland address, initially claimed his Honda Element was having brake problems and that he was searching for an auto repair shop. Other times, he suggested that the injuries could have been inflicted by “another, similar looking” Honda car, not his. He admitted at one point to striking a bicyclist but characterized the collision as an “emergency maneuver” he made to avoid a more serious crash with ongoing traffic, prosecutor Sean P. Hughey wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
Rivas was arraigned Wednesday on murder and assault allegations. He’s due back in court Feb. 4.
Rivas faces 14 felony allegations: second-degree murder, six counts of second-degree assault, six counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver after causing injuries and one count of failure to perform the duties of a driver resulting in a death.
Through a court-appointed attorney, Rivas pleaded not guilty to the charges. He asked if any of the offenses charged were misdemeanors, and questioned why news cameras and photographers were present in the courtroom.
He’s accused of striking Jean Gerich, a longtime Portland resident, then making a U-turn and running her down again and dragging her, police said. She died of blunt force trauma at a hospital Monday night. The 77-year-old woman, a mother of two with six grandchildren, had beat cancer five years ago and was excited to be out walking after having just received her first COVID-19 vaccination last week, her family said.
Numerous witnesses recounted to police that Rivas appeared to be deliberately attempting to strike vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians by swerving toward them while in the road and driving on sidewalks. He sped away after hitting people, without making any attempt to stop or render aid, according to police and prosecutors.
He’s accused of using his car as a dangerous weapon to kill Gerich and injure at least six other people. Police have said he injured nine others.
Rivas ultimately crashed into a car and ran off but was surrounded and cornered by several bystanders before he was arrested by police.
Rivas told court officials he has anxiety and depression and was diagnosed while in the U.S. Secret Service, but he never worked for the Secret Service, according to court documents.
He’s been living in a fifth-wheel trailer in Oregon City, Ore., he told court officials, and has prior addresses in Washington, where he was convicted in 2019 of voyeurism for filming under the skirt of a woman in front of him while waiting in line at a Vancouver post office.
Detectives said the crime scene stretched from Southeast Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard to Southeast 15th Avenue, and from East Burnside Street to Belmont Street.
Rivas said he’s divorced but has “multiple girlfriends,” according to court records. He told court officials he last drank alcohol six months ago and hasn’t used hard drugs in four decades, according to the records. The court listed aliases of “Rocket” and “Pablo” for him.
He told court officials he receives Supplemental Security Income for a disability, and has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression in the past.
Rivas had his license suspended for a brief time after a 2013 conviction for failure to obey traffic signals and failure to provide proof of compliance. Court records show it was reinstated on Dec. 8, 2014.
He has three failure to obey traffic device convictions from 2007, 2011 and 2013, according to Oregon court records.
Rivas also has a March 2019 conviction in Clark County for second-degree voyeurism. He was arrested at a post office in Vancouver on Aug. 14, 2018, after he was seen trying to use his phone to film under the skirt of a woman standing in line in front of him, according to court records. Another man waiting in line behind Rivas told Rivas to stop and then got into a physical struggle with Rivas before police arrived and arrested him. He was ordered to spend 20 days in custody and undergo a psychosexual evaluation, according to court records. At the time, Rivas had an address in Woodland.
The woman he was attempting to film obtained a protective order against Rivas, which requires him to remain at least 1,000 feet away from her. The order is effective through March 19 of this year, according to Clark County records.