Hood to Coast runner steals truck, runs over race participant in Columbia County
A 36-year-old man running in the Hood to Coast relay race was arrested early Saturday morning after he stole a truck during one of the event's Columbia County exchanges and tried to hit a group of runners resting in a field near Birkenfeld.
Around 2 a.m. Saturday, David Jon Blackmon, of Bend, was seen stealing a pickup truck being used by a portable restroom company servicing units near exchange 24 near Birkenfeld, a Columbia County Sheriff's Office new release indicates. The race participant was part of the Lorentz Brunn Construction Team, an event official confirmed Monday.
After stealing the truck, Blackmon drove it through a nearby open field, where Hood to Coast runners were resting. Witnesses told investigators three of the runners were able to jump out of the way of truck, but a race participant from Canby, Cynthia Gillespie, was struck by the vehicle, being run over and dragged for a short distance before the truck stopped and came to rest on her leg.
The truck's original driver reportedly chased Blackmon down, and Blackmon ran into nearby woods. Blackmon was found by a K9 police unit from Beaverton, which was called to assist the Sheriff's Office along with Oregon State Police. The police dog found Blackmon in the woods and the suspect was detained.
Gillespie was transported to Oregon Health and Science University hospital, where she was treated and later released with minor injuries, according to the Sheriff's Office report.
"We first want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Team 714 nicknamed 'They Sustained the Pain,'" Dan Floyd, chief operating officer for Hood to Coast, stated Monday. "In an emotional move, they crossed the finish line together this morning. We are so proud of them. They fought through unwarranted adversity and injury at this year's event."
Floyd said providing a safe environment for participants, volunteers and spectators is top priority for the race organization.
"When striving to provide the safest family-friendly experience, we rely heavily on our participants to follow laws and rules, and to look out for one another," Floyd stated. "Unfortunately, one participant, Mr. Blackmon, placed the lives and safety of other people at risk ... His actions are deplorable and are never tolerated at one of our events."
Floyd acknowledged the law enforcement agencies who responded, as well as Mist-Birkenfeld Fire Department and Honey Bucket, for "coming to the rescue."
Blackmon was booked into Columbia County Jail Saturday morning on charges of second-degree assault, reckless driving, driving under the influence, reckless endangering, driving with a revoked license, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said initial reports indicate it doesn't appear Blackmon was attempting to run down a larger group of runners, but the incident remains under investigation.
"It should go without saying, but to be clear, Mr. Blackmon and his team are not welcome at our events in the future," Floyd added.
Prior to Saturday's incident, Blackmon was arrested in July in Deschutes County for driving under the influence and refusing to test for intoxicants, court records show. He was ordered not to use or possess any alcohol.
Hood to Coast is an annual relay race that spans nearly 200 miles. Teams of 12 runners take turns completing segments of the race, which begins at Mt. Hood and ends in Seaside.