Police: Cleaning crew ‘mistake’ led to man who tried to murder a Portland police officer escaping jail


PORTLAND, OR – We’re getting further details on the currently at-large attempted murder suspect who reportedly escaped from a Portland Police Bureau holding cell on January 2nd. 

Officials with the PPB believe that a mistake by the cleaning crew within the Central Precinct led to 24-year-old David Dahlen being able to escape. 

Police had arrested Dahlen due to him allegedly being the driver of a stolen vehicle that rammed into a Portland Police officer on Christmas Eve. While having lost the suspect’s trail the evening of the incident, authorities say they’d eventually caught up with Dahlen and arrested him on January 2nd. 

He was brought into a holding cell within the Central Precinct’s Detectives Division after his arrest. Yet, officials say that two contracted cleaning crew members were inside the Detective’s Division performing their standard disinfecting routine. 

One of the workers was said to have then opened the holding cell door where Dahlen was being held, but then immediately went to close it after seeing the holding cell was occupied. 

However, police believe that the worker may not have fully closed the door in that instance. 

In a statement released by the PPB, the following was noted about that possibility:

“Preliminary investigations leave investigators to believe that the door did not fully latch after it was closed. Sometime after the cleaning crew members left, investigators believe Dahlen pushed the door from the inside, found it to be insecure, and got out.”

From there, investigators believe that Dahlen capitalized on an unlocked stairwell, which was left unsecured due to fire safety reasons, which enabled him to escape the building through one of the side doors. 

Minutes after the fact, that’s when members of the Detective’s Division realized that the suspect was missing. Despite rushing to have the building locked down and secured, security footage revealed that Dahlen was already outside of the precinct. 

The manhunt for the suspect is still reportedly in progress, with authorities saying that he’s wanted for attempted murder in the first degree, assault in the first degree, assaulting a public safety officer, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and escape in the second degree. 

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We at Law Enforcement Today recently reported on when the escape was first realized, and the alleged criminal acts leading up to the suspect’s arrest. 

Here’s that previous report. 


PORTLAND, OR– On Christmas Eve, a man was arrested, accused of ramming a stolen vehicle into an officer, twice. While being detained, he managed to escape police custody, and is still at large. 

On December 24th, Portland Police Officer, Jennifer Pierce, a 15 year veteran of the force, responded to a call of a stolen pickup truck being located at a 76 gas station at the corner of Southeast Powell and Cesar Chavez Boulevards. 

According to reports, when officer Pierce tried to box in the stolen vehicle, the driver, now identified as 24-year-old David Dahlen rammed the pickup truck into Pierce, pinning her between his vehicle and the patrol car she was standing outside of.

Dahlen then put the truck in reverse, and rammed into officer Pierce a second time, prompting her to fire her weapon at him. 

The pickup truck then sped out of the gas station, and was located abandoned several hours later in Southeast Portland, police reported. 

On Saturday, January 2nd, Portland East Precinct Police Officers announced that after a brief foot chase in the area of Southeast 101st Avenue and Insley Street, officers had arrested Dahlen at about 1:30 p.m. 

Dahlen was taken to the Police Bureau’s detective division and placed in a holding cell where police had intended to question him in regards to the Christmas Eve incident with Officer Pierce, which left her hospitalized with a fractured pelvis according to reports. 

Approximately four hours later, around 5:30 p.m., officers discovered Dahlen, who was being held on an attempted murder charge, had escaped from his holding cell. 

According to Oregon Live, Officer Kevin Allen, a bureau spokesman, said officers have not yet figured out how Dahlen escaped but said it was “unprecedented” in the bureau’s recent history. An investigation will be done into how the escape occurred.

Allen said after bureau members discovered he had escaped, they secured the building, and surveillance video showed Dahlen running north from Central Precinct. As of 8:30 p.m., officers had not yet found Dahlen.

The cell which Dahlen had been placed in is a temporary locking room within the police station, and is not one of the cells in the Multnomah County Detention Center, which are more formal and guarded by sheriff’s deputies, Allen said.
David Dahlen
Portland Police Bureau
The pickup had been stolen from a Southeast Portland auto shop the prior Monday, December 21st. The owner and his girlfriend were finishing up holiday shopping when a friend spotted their truck on Southeast Powell Boulevard.
They alerted police and arrived at the 76 gas station when the police encounter occurred, Oregon Live reported.

A witness’ video obtained by KOIN 6 captured the stolen pickup ramming the driver’s side of a marked patrol car and pushing it forward before driving out of the gas station’s lot. The driver’s door of the police car was open at the time it was struck by the stolen truck.

According to Oregon Live, Officer Brian Hunzeker, president of the Portland Police Association, said the video captured by a witness showed:

“[the] large, lifted, stolen truck violently ram a Portland officer and their vehicle,” 

He then went on to say that this represents:

“[a] clear attempt to assault or even kill the officer.” 

Hunzeker said in a statement:

“We look forward to the ongoing investigation and for the entire set of facts to be gathered and revealed so the public has a full and clear understanding of how quickly these dynamic incidents can turn deadly,” 

The Portland Police do not believe Dahlen is a direct threat to the public, and are now asking for the community’s help in locating him. 

On the Portland Police website, they state:

“David Michael Dahlen III is a white male, 24 years old, 5’8” tall, 170 pounds. He was last seen wearing a green long sleeve shirt, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes. He had a noticeable amount of dried mud on his clothing.

He has warrants for his arrest for Attempted Murder in the First Degree, Assault in the First Degree, Assaulting a Public Safety Officer, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, and Escape in the Second Degree.

“If anyone sees Dahlen or knows where he is, they’re asked to not approach him and call 911 right away.

“Crime Stoppers of Oregon offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 cash for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in any unsolved felony crime and tipsters can remain anonymous.”

Law Enforcement Today will bring you updates on this case as we receive them. 

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