Starbucks 'takeover' closes down Westmoreland business district
The peace of a sunny winter Saturday morning was shattered at the Westmoreland Starbucks coffee shop on Saturday, February 11, when a man and woman sauntered into the store around 10:30 a.m.
Multiple customers who witnessed the event as it unfolded told THE BEE that the pair looked relatively calm, but then began shouting words to the effect of, "Get out, get out now! Something bad is about to happen."
"The man grabbed the phone out of the manager's hand, as I think she was calling for the police," a customer said.
But, other customers in the coffee shop were calling 9-1-1 themselves, but in fear, some left their cell phones in the store as they hastily exited as commanded, while still on the line with 9-1-1 operators who could clearly hear the commotion taking place.
Customers agreed that they didn't see any weapons displayed, nor there was there mention of a robbery – but the shop quickly emptied out, leaving the man and woman alone inside.
An employee of the shop told an officer at the scene that she was working behind the counter when it began, and she frustrated the invading duo because she didn't immediately put down her cell phone.
"The guy looked at me and said, 'Get out here now, you're not doing it fast enough', she recalled.
The calls for help weren't unheeded; Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Central Precinct officers blocked off S.E. Bybee Boulevard between S.E. Milwaukie Avenue and 16th Avenue; others took cover in positions around the coffee shop.
"Officers determined the identities of the individuals, and learned they were experiencing a mental health crisis," said PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.
"Officers talked to both people and got them both to come out and surrender peacefully, and were taken into custody at 11:11 a.m.," Simpson said.
48-year-old Rodney Allen Smith and 48-year-old Lisa Grier were booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 3:26 p.m. that afternoon on a charge of Coercion. "Smith was booked on an additional charge of Theft in the Third Degree," Simpson said.
This wasn't the first time the pair behaved that way, Simpson reported.
"On February 3, Smith and Grier were the subject of a police call at the Jantzen Beach Safeway store after Smith claimed to have a gun, demanded the store to be evacuated, and locked himself in the manager's office," Simpson revealed.
"Smith was accompanied by a woman who was later determined to be his wife, Lisa Grier," added Simpson. "Officers were able to de-escalate the situation, and Smith surrendered peacefully and was taken to the hospital by ambulance on a 'police officer hold' for a mental health evaluation; Grier was released at the scene."
Repeating the stunt in the same way resulted this time in an arrest for the pair. After being arraigned in Multnomah County Court, Smith and Grier remain in custody at MCDC; Smith in lieu of $6,000 bail, Grier in lieu of $5,000 bail.