The following audio is a 911 recording provided and edited by Portland Police Bureau:
New records released on Friday by the Portland Police Bureau provide more insight into how City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was falsely implicated in a minor hit-and-run with which she had nothing to do.
Despite not being involved in a hit-and-run reported on March 3, Hardesty’s name is mentioned 55 times in the police report. That’s due to a false identification of Hardesty made by the victim of the crash.
Evelynn Ellis, a 46-year-old white woman, told the 911 dispatcher she was confident that Hardesty read-ended her vehicle at an intersection in Southeast Portland and then fled the scene.
“I know it was her,” Ellis told the dispatcher, according to a 911-call released Friday.
Ellis said she was first “starstruck” when she looked in her rear-view mirror at a stoplight and saw a driver she mistook for Hardesty in a tan four-door vehicle.
It was not Hardesty. After the allegation leaked to the media, Hardesty held an impromptu press conference on March 4 to clear her name. Hardesty told local reporters that she was at home when the incident occurred and had not owned a working car in half a year.
The police bureau cleared Hardesty of potential involvement hours after the press conference. Trimet cameras at nearby MAX platforms had captured the incident and showed the license plate of the car, which was registered to two women, according to the police report.
The report states one of the women, Shirley Collins, a 64-year-old Black woman matched the description Ellis provided to the police.
Multiple officers wrote in the report about how they thought Collins and Hardesty, both Black women in their 60s, resembled one another.
“The main difference in appearance between them would be the hairstyle and color. Collins’ hair is short and gray/white, while Hardesty has long hair,” the report states. “The fact that Collins was wearing a hood, which covered her hair, makes the stark difference (hair length and color) between the two irrelevant.”
According to the report, Collins denied being involved in a collision and told police she believed the driver at the time was a woman in her 20′s who had borrowed the car. After watching the surveillance camera footage of the incident, David Enz with the traffic investigative unit concluded the driver was Collins.
One critical detail not in the report: how information incorrectly listing Hardesty as a suspect went so quickly from the police bureau to the press and right-wing groups. The Oregonian reported on the incident the next morning, citing a computer dispatch report that listed Hardesty as a suspect. The Coalition to Save Portland, a conservative group, had posted the allegations on its Facebook page. The group describes itself as a “Political Action Committee fed up with the policies of appeasement that allow our [city’s] livability to deteriorate” on its Facebook page.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has announced an investigation into how these unproven allegations spread so quickly.
Apparently, this was a source of surprise to the officers, too.
According to a police report written by Christopher Johnson with the traffic investigations unit, Ellis was disturbed that she got a call from a KXL radio reporter shortly after the incident occurred.
“I commiserated with her that the fact that her information was out there so quickly is alarming,” he wrote.