Police: Taxi ran red light before hitting pedestrians

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland police are investigating a violent crash they said left two pedestrians injured Wednesday night. Investigators said the women were hit by a taxi that ran a red light, got hit by another car and then crashed into a downtown Portland storefront.

Police said their investigation so far shows that just before 8 p.m., a Broadway taxi cab being driven by Moktar Mohamud Mohamed, 46, ran a red light and was hit by a BMW being driven by Joseph B. David, 26, at the corner of Southwest 10th and Morrison.

After the impact with the BMW, police said the cab struck Dian Rae Bennett and Lori Nuhring, both 41, and then crashed into Ray's Ragtime, a store on the corner of 10th and Morrison.

Bennett and Nearing both suffered leg injuries and are expected to survive, but Bennett's injuries are "very serious."

Police said Mohamed had non-life threatening injuries. Joseph David and a female passenger in the BMW were not hurt. Investigators said alcohol did not appear to be a factor with either driver.

A police officer who was on the scene said the cab driver was likely chasing the vehicle to get a license plate number. Witnesses also said the cab seemed like it was going 40 or 50 mph and ran the red light at 10th Avenue. Police said the impact with the BMW sent the cab towards the two pedestrians.

In an interview with KATU News on Thursday, Mohamed disputed claims he was chasing a car or ran a red light. He said he was parked when a woman driving a Honda hit his cab. He said "no, absolutely no" when asked if he was chasing the car at the time of the crash.

"I got the license plate before I started moving," he said.

"I remember before I got hit [by the BMW], I was going west on Morrison and I was following another car," Mohamed said. "We passed from Broadway to 9th Avenue and when I reached 10th, that's when the other people come from the other side and I just remember [the BMW] hit me."

"I lost control and I remember there was people on the sidewalk. And that's what I remember," he said in reference to the two women who were hit.

Mohamed got a cut on his forehead and said he lost consciousness. He said he also hurt his shoulder, knee and lower back but said he was "doing fine."

He said he has been driving a cab for 15 years and this is his first accident.

Witnesses said the cab was flying down Morrison. They said they saw the cab get hit or clipped by a car and the cab driver jumped into his vehicle and took off after it.

At the site of the crash, witnesses said Bennett was thrown into the store's windows and her legs were crushed.

"It was pretty bad," said Shannon Moore, who said she saw the cab speed by.

Moore said the two women, who she described as "friends," were dressed in medical scrubs. A medical training school is located across the street from the scene of the crash and students there told KATU News that Bennett and Nuhring are connected to the school.

"Seeing a body just crumble like that, it's terrifying," said Aryn Nolasco, who saw the crash. "Her leg was like bent up against the side of her and it was just horrifying."

"I've seen a couple of accidents at this corner, but nothing ever this bad. And I've never had both of my windows broken out. I hope she's OK," Ray Tillotsox, owner of Ray's Ragtime, told KATU News.

"The really awful thing about it is all of us are on the sidewalk in the city every single day, and it's a place of safety and we don't think something like this will happen," Lt. Robert King said Thursday as the investigation into the crash went on. "When you see something happening that concerns you, call 911. Call the police let us come and do our jobs," King said.

Police said that once an investigation in the crash is complete it will be forwarded to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office for presentation to a grand jury. So far nobody has been charged with any crimes.

KATU News reporter Anita Kisse contributed to this report.