PORTLAND, OR – On January 2, 2021, officers from the East Precinct arrested David Dahlen on a warrant for the Attempted Murder of Portland Police Officer Jennifer Pierce. Dahlen was transported to Central Precinct where he was placed in a holding cell in the Detectives Division.
A holding cell is not jail, it’s a secure room where Dahlen was held while detectives prepared to interview him and gather necessary paperwork for booking into the Multnomah County Detention Center.
While Dahlen was in the holding room, two members of a contracted cleaning crew were doing COVID-19 disinfecting in the Detective Division. The protocol during the pandemic has been to do daily enhanced cleaning and disinfecting to protect suspects who are being held in those rooms. One of the cleaning crew members opened the door to the holding room, then closed it again after they realized the room was occupied.
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.
Investigators believe Dahlen found his way to a stairwell, which are unlocked for fire safety reasons, and exited the building on a south side door.
A few minutes later, members of the Detective Division went to check on Dahlen and discovered that he was gone. The building was locked down and a search began. During the search, investigators reviewing video footage, found that Dahlen was already out of the building.
Officers did extensive area checks downtown and monitored transit to look for him, but were unable to locate him.
An effort is still underway to locate and recapture Dahlen. We’re asking for our community to keep a look out and call 911 if he is seen.
As for the method of his escape, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) takes the safety and security of individuals in our custody very seriously. PPB will be doing an after-action, which is a comprehensive internal review of our procedures regarding holding cells. It will contain recommendations for improving those procedures to prevent anything like this from happening again.