Reports of police officers using a Taser stun gun in an attempt to subdue a well-known local bicyclist Tuesday night in Southeast Portland has sparked protest on the Internet.
Police say officers used a Taser on bicyclist Phil "Reverend Phil" Sano, but only after he refused orders to stop because he was riding without a light and then became combative.
However, the Taser's probes failed to properly connect through Sano's thick clothing and didn't lock up any muscle groups, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz.
A rough sketch of the encounter first popped up on the Portland Independent Media site today. Someone posting under the handle "wonderin," said police pulled over a woman for riding her bicycle without lights about 9:30 p.m. near Southeast Seventh Avenue and Morrison Street. The poster said the woman is a friend.
"As they were writing her a ticket another biker was biking North on 7th," according to the post. "They used him as an example (of) how bikers cannot be seen without lights."
Officers ordered the second cyclist to stop and when he didn't stop quickly enough, "they ran after him, pulled him off his bike, threw him against a nearby wall and tased him multiple times," according to the Indymedia post.
"When my friend called I could hear him screaming in the background and the cops yelling at him," wonderin posted.
In a separate post on the web site, Portland lawyer Stu Sugarman said Sano, an ordained minister and well-known Portland bicycle evangelist, was the victim of "senseless police violence."
Sugarman, who could not be reached by phone for further comment, posted that he is representing Sano and asked the witnesses come forward.
But Cathe Kent, a police spokeswoman, said Sgt. Erin Smith and Officer Ron Hoesly only used the Taser when Sano became combative.
She said the pair stopped the first bicyclist because she was riding in dark clothing without using a light. The officers were in uniform and turned on their patrol car's lights to alert traffic while they talked to the woman, police said.
When Sano rode by without a light, the officers ordered him to stop, Kent said. "The guy refused to stop," she said.
Smith then reached out to stop Sano and they began to struggle, she said. Sano reportedly refused to comply with any of the officers' orders and continued to resist even after the Taser was used.
Sano is charged with resisting arrest, third-degree attempted escape, disorderly conduct and cited for riding without a front light and failure to obey officers, Kent said.
Sano, who was arrested and taken to jail, admitted he had been drinking, but was not given field sobriety tests because the officers were not arresting him for driving under the influence, police said.
Police said their records showed that officers had given Sano a previous warning for riding without a bike light and then given a free bike light. Schmautz said reports from the incident were not yet available.
Sano is a regular contributor to the bike multimedia site BikeTV.org. A BikeTV.org profile describes him as "a bike culturlist de Portland, Oregon. He like-a-da sauce. He genrally imposes his destructive optimizim upon his surroundings which is often FREE GEEK, a nonprofit that recycles computers and educates folks in Open Source, although rev phil initally thought they said 'open sores.'"
Sano could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.