Elishama Mathews Arrested for Stabbing Cars and Setting One Ablaze in Portland

Elishama Mathews allegedly stabbed two occupied cars and set a parked car on fire in Portland's Capitol Hill neighborhood. Crisis-intervention officers responded, de-escalating the situation and taking Mathews into custody without incident.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Elishama Mathews Arrested for Stabbing Cars and Setting One Ablaze in Portland

Elishama Mathews Arrested for Stabbing Cars and Setting One Ablaze in Portland

On May 9, 2024, a disturbing incident unfolded in Portland's Capitol Hill neighborhood as 42-year-old Elishama Mathews allegedly stabbed two occupied cars with a knife and set an unoccupied vehicle on fire. The Portland Police Bureau swiftly responded to the scene near Southwest Barbur Boulevard and 26th Avenue around noon, after receiving reports of a woman brandishing a knife and running through traffic.

Why this matters: This incident highlights the critical role of de-escalation techniques and mental health awareness in modern policing, and it underscores the need for law enforcement to be equipped with the necessary training and resources to respond to individuals in mental health crises. The successful resolution of this situation demonstrates the potential for peaceful outcomes when officers are properly trained to handle such situations.

Upon arriving at the scene, patrol officers recognized signs that Mathews was experiencing a mental health crisis. They promptly called in a specially trainedcrisis-intervention officerto assist in de-escalating the situation. The crisis-intervention officer successfully convinced Mathews to surrender and discard her knife, allowing for a peaceful resolution to the immediate threat.

As Mathews was being taken into custody, police discovered a nearby parked car engulfed in flames. Portland Fire & Rescue quickly responded to extinguish the blaze, but the vehicle was completely destroyed. An investigation concluded that Mathews had likely stabbed two passing cars with her knife before setting the parked car on fire.

Witness Daniel McNab described the frightening scene, stating, "The explosions. That's the part that really scared everybody." McNab claimed that Mathews calmly put on her jacket and walked away after igniting the parked vehicle. He also mentioned sustaining some cuts while attempting to help, although no official reports of injuries were made.

Mathews now faces serious charges, including second-degree arson, two counts of menacing, and two counts of second-degree criminal mischief. She was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center following her arrest. Court records reveal that just over a year ago, Mathews was accused of setting fire to a car belonging to a man who had a stalking order against her, although that charge was ultimately dismissed.

Sgt. Kevin Allen of the Portland Police Bureau emphasized the importance of the specialized training received by crisis-intervention officers, stating, "We had a happy ending. We got her into custody. And certainly, she committed a serious crime but we're also advocating for her to get some help." The incident highlights the critical role that de-escalation techniques and mental health awareness play in modern policing.

The May 9 incident in Portland's Capitol Hill neighborhood, involving Elishama Mathews' alleged stabbing of two cars and the arson of another, underscores the complex challenges faced by law enforcement when responding to individuals in mental health crises. As Mathews awaits further legal proceedings, the Portland Police Bureau's handling of the situation serves as an example of the potential for peaceful resolutions when officers are equipped with proper crisis intervention training.