JOANNA BREEDLOVE freely admits she made a mistake.
She'd been showing off her zippy and expensive rollerblades at Zoobomb late on the night of Sunday, December 8. And on one particular run down SW Salmon, flanked by two friends on minibikes, she didn't see the cop waiting at a four-way stop until it was too late.
She couldn't stop in time. But then the cop car, she says, pulled in front of her, forcing her to swerve around it. She calmly skated to the shoulder, expecting a citation.
"I knew I was going to get in trouble," Breedlove says.
And so she did.
Portland Police Sergeant Anthony Passadore hollered at her, she says, before hauling her off to jail on a pair of misdemeanor charges. He also confiscated her helmet and rollerblades—and, as of press time, still hasn't returned them even after those charges were dismissed.
Breedlove's rare trip to jail shocked longtime members of Portland's 11-year-old Zoobomb community—the amorphous bike gathering famed for taking tiny bikes and other strange conveyances up to the MAX zoo stop on Sunday nights and then flying down the steep hills leading back to downtown.
It's also raised questions about whether a lone cop—Passadore—has decided to take matters into his own hands and upset what's been a delicate, hard-fought, and politically sensitive détente between cops and Zoobombers.
Beyond the surprising arrest—on charges of reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct (which can sometimes be a traffic crime)—Breedlove told the Mercury Passadore questioned her repeatedly about the group's activities after she was booked.
And then, a few weeks after the arrest, according to other participants and video footage reviewed by the Mercury, Passadore returned to the hill to crow about it and warn anyone else he saw "bombing" that he'd do the same to them.
"If I do see you Zoobombing, I'm going to arrest you," Passadore says from his car in the video, also calling the activity "very dangerous." "Zoobombing, by definition, is illegal."
The tone of Passadore's comments harks back to the bad old days of Zoobomb's relationship with TriMet and the Portland Police Bureau.
Crackdowns and busts were a pretty regular reality for those first few years—until the Zoobombers sat down with city officials to plead their case and protest the heavy-handed tactics. Since then, Zoobomb's become such a marketable part of the city's identity that its participants won the backing of then-Police Commissioner Sam Adams, who called them "responsible" and "fun."
"I have a feeling if the police were going to do something, they'd approach us differently," says "Handsome" Dave Terry, the group's bike librarian and an influential voice in the community. "They have been so kind and so generous. This dude, it comes from left field—one guy trying to do his thing, for whatever reason.
"Does he have a hard-on for Zoobomb?" Terry asks. "If so, why?"
Police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson didn't respond as of press time to questions asking whether senior officers had sanctioned Passadore's apparently aggressive approach to Zoobombing.
Captain Kelli Sheffer, a former police spokeswoman now in charge of the bureau's traffic division, also didn't respond to questions asking about any uptick in complaints. Or if there's been a change in the bureau's low-key approach to enforcement.
Simpson did comment briefly when asked last Thursday, January 16, about Breedlove's arrest. He said the arrest report was "very thorough in explaining what happened and why she was arrested."
The bureau, unfortunately, has yet to answer a request for a copy of the report. Nor did Simpson answer whether Breedlove's helmet and rollerblades—K2s worth $300—were being treated like evidence. Breedlove's charges were listed as dismissed with "no complaint," meaning they could be re-filed at a prosecutor's discretion.
Breedlove, a business owner who runs Vintage by the Pound on NE MLK, said she called the court to get her stuff back after her charges were dropped on December 17. She was told to talk with Passadore. Attorneys tell the Mercury it's standard for people to go through the cops who arrested them—awkward, especially if a cop is mad—whenever they want their property returned.
"I told him they dropped all the charges," she says. "He was all, 'Oh. Well. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm not gonna release the blades to you. I'm gonna call the DA to get [the] charges reinstated.'
"For a traffic violation," she continues, "it's been really ridiculous."