Witnesses: Driver intentionally crashed into crowd

The crash happened near SE 97th Avenue and Ankeny Street

Henry Nickila II at his arraignment on multiple charges, April 3, 2017 (KOIN)
Henry Nickila II at his arraignment on multiple charges, April 3, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two people were sent to the hospital Sunday afternoon when a driver crashed into them in Southeast Portland, police confirmed.

Witnesses told KOIN 6 News 22-year-old Henry Nickila II had been racing down the street all day and that he intentionally drove into a group of 3 people after they told him to slow down.

The crash happened near SE 97th Avenue and Ankeny Street.

Witnesses said a driver intentionally rammed his car into a crowd of people in Southeast Portland, Sunday, April 2, 2017. (KOIN)

“I came running over trying to help,” witness Vernon Heaps said. “I saw the same dude drive by, his airbag was deployed. I don’t know how he could see.”

Nickila II hit 3 cars as he rammed into the group of people.

William Majerack said it was his son, Dylan, and friends, Josh Doop and Devon Damon, who were hit. They were hanging out by their cars when it happened.

“Josh was standing here, he’s the one that saw the guy come down the road, flip around the corner,” Majerack said. “Looked right at them, was smoking a cigarette. Flipped the cigarette and went right at them.”

Majerack said Doop took a step back and the car barely missed him.

But his son, Dylan, got clipped by the car.

“My son stepped off, caught the mirror in the stomach,” he said.

Damon got the worst of it, according to Majerack, who said he tried to get out of the way but the car hit him. Damon was reportedly shoved under the car.

But Nickila II kept pushing on, driving his silver Chevy Impala on top of a smaller black truck while Damon was underneath. He then drove his wrecked car into the Chestnut Tree Inn about a block away from the initial crash scene.

Neighbors said they had been chasing the suspect out of the parking lot all day.

“He’s been driving up and down the street all day and he’s been told to slow down,” neighbor Lana Meacham said. “Obviously, he didn’t care.”

Merle Meacham said what happened was “premeditated all the way. He knew that he was coming back to hurt somebody or do some damage, and unfortunately 2 of my good friends are both in the hospital right now because he decided to use his vehicle as a weapon.”

Majerack said he’s thankful no one was killed. His son was sent to the hospital to check for internal injuries, but was later released. Damon remains hospitalized.

Nickila II was taken into custody and made his first court appearance Monday. His court-appointed attorney entered a not guilty plea in Judge Kenneth Walker’s court. Nickila was also told to not have any contact with the victims in the case, and the DA requested Nickila be labeled a high-risk DUI offender.

A group of people in court during his arraignment refused to answer any questions from KOIN 6 News about what might have happened.

Police said speed and impairment were factors. Nickila is charged with 2nd-degree assault, 3 counts of reckless endangering, 3 counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver — property damage, 3 counts of failure to perform the duties of a driver — injury, and DUII.

KOIN 6 News reporter Tim Becker contributed to this report.