The gist of the story is that there is no independent evidence to verify either event ever occured.
Now I know that Trimet hires some very strange people, and I know that some very weird things happen at Trimet that are unexplainable, but this takes the cake.
One of the drivers was later promoted to a supervisory position which is very odd if Trimet had even the slightest suspicion that he was lying. Hamad gave an interview to KATU which is at the bottom of this post. That's one hell of an acting job if he was lying.
If one or both of these guys is actually lying what does that say about the working environment at Trimet that would cause someone to actually do this to themselves.
Steve Duin: Workers' comp investigator disputes 2013 TriMet stabbing accounts | OregonLive.com
In 2013, two Portland bus drivers -- Brian Nixon and Fadi Hamad -- made anguished calls to TriMet dispatchers, each claiming he had been stabbed in the shadow of Interstate 205.
The calls, three months apart, were oddly similar. Nixon said he was exiting a portable toilet at Southeast 92nd and Flavel, Hamad the drivers' break room at Southeast 94th and Foster. Both drivers said they were confronted by a vagrant demanding to use the bathroom.
When the drivers refused, Nixon and Hamad said they were attacked, the strangers first cursing them, then stabbing them with small knives.
TriMet was sufficiently alarmed by the stabbing incidents that it posted armed security guards at both break areas near I-205. Spokeswoman Mary Fetsch estimates the two sentinels cost $304,000 annually.
Meanwhile, Portland police were unable to locate either suspect. Police could not track down a single witness.
And that doesn't surprise Paul McRedmond, an expert in martial arts, use of force, and bladed weapons, who long ago concluded that Nixon and Hamad likely stabbed themselves.
"The conclusions were drawn relatively quickly once I had all the information," McRedmond told me.
A retired Multnomah County deputy sheriff, McRedmond was enlisted by CorVel Corporation, the third-party administrator that processes and investigates TriMet's workers' comp claims. He examined medical and psychiatric records, Portland police reports, the drivers' varied accounts of the attacks and photographs of the injuries.
Nixon said he was attacked on the night of April 20. He was left with two three-fourth inch wounds at the top of his right thigh, according to the police reports.
Nixon's wounds, McRedmond argued in his report, were likely self-inflicted.
Three months later, the 236-pound Hamad suffered half-inch cuts to his chest and lower abdomen after being stabbed, he said, with a small hobby knife.
"Based on the materials provided to me and on my training and experience, I conclude that it is highly unlikely that the wounds in Mr. Hamad's chest and abdomen were inflicted by an attacker," McRedmond wrote.
"I believe that Mr. Hamad inflicted these wounds on himself by holding the ... knife in his fist with just the very tip of the blade exposed and then 'punched' himself twice, producing the wounds indicated in the reports."
That knife, curiously, was discovered -- at Oregon Health & Science University -- in the pocket of Hamad's pants. As Officer Daniel O'Keeffe notes in the police report, "Prior to taking a statement from Hamad, I heard ER nurse Stephanie Miller tell Hamad she was going to inventory the property in his clothes, which were lying on the floor.
"Moments later, Hamad told ER staff that the knife used to injure him was in his pocket." Just then, Miller pulled the knife from his pants pocket, cutting herself on the blade.
Asked to respond to McRedmond's analysis, Nixon -- who resumed driving for TriMet in November 2013 -- said, "The case is settled. It's over and done with. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing to talk about.
"I need my job. I'm trying to do what I can to keep it. I would prefer to not have any backlash."
Hamad -- who was promoted to road supervisor last August -- declined to comment.
McRedmond sent his reports to attorney Travis Terrall, who represents TriMet on workers' comp cases, and Cindy Dean, a senior claims specialist at CorVel, but TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch would not confirm that TriMet reviewed his findings.
Any such acknowledgment, Fetsch said, "involves protected information under HIPAA privacy rules and attorney-client privilege."
TriMet did volunteer incident reports and dispatch audio records. But Kimberlee Akimoto, an agency attorney, said the workers' comp investigation records for Nixon and Hamad -- which run up to 9,000 pages -- are exempt from disclosure.
Third-party administrators are motivated, obviously, to control costs.
"Workers' comp claims are denied daily, especially at TriMet," notes Bruce Hansen, the union president.
And Nixon's fiancée, Cynthia Chasteen, points out that McRedmond has never met Nixon: "It benefits TriMet to pay these people to say Brian stabbed himself so they don't have to pay the workers' compensation."
Yet McRedmond expressed concern about the drivers. "The real tragedy here is that the individuals were under such intense frustration that they took this course," he said. "To me, it's a cry for help. What kind of peer support does TriMet have?
"If they did indeed do this to themselves, how can we assist them?"
McRedmond's empathy doesn't, however, diminish his questions about the depth or angle of the wounds, and the inconsistencies in the driver statements.
On the night of April 2013, McRedmond notes, Portland Police Officer Brian Powell arrived at the scene to find Nixon with his hand wrapped around the black-handled knife protruding from his thigh.
Nixon described his assailant as a skinny 30-year-old black male in a black beanie. When the guy tried to punch him in the face, Nixon said he "ducked and avoided" the blow, even as his attacker "pulled out a knife and stabbed him in the right leg."
Nixon told Transit Officer Kyle Malizia the blow "was a forward straight motion as opposed to a downward stab."
And in a subsequent recorded statement, McRedmond notes that Nixon says, "While he was swinging at me, I felt something in my leg and noticed he had a knife. He had gotten me in my leg with his knife.
"He lunged at me again and I grabbed his hand ... The knife was still in my leg. At the same time, I'm punching him, trying to get away and get him away from me."
The knife was still embedded in Nixon's leg, the driver's hand wrapped around the handle, when Portland fire fighters arrived.
As McRedmond notes, "If a defender is holding the knife against/into the wound while punching, such wound will be a lot worse and not show the symmetry and precise spacing described in the medical reports."
Neat, symmetrical wounds are implausible in the hand-to-hand combat that Nixon describes, McRedmond argues: "If either the victim or the attacker is moving at all, there will be several widely separated and different-looking wounds that vary in depth, width, appearance and blow flow."
For additional perspective, I called Howard Webb, a use-of-force instructor at the Oregon Public Safety Academy from 1984-1999.
"I'm suspicious as well," said Webb, who now lives in Montana. "If you were stabbed and there was a struggle, there would be an elongation of the knife wound, unless it was shoved straight in and pulled straight out. It wasn't. It was left in there.
"Even if (the knife) only goes in three-quarters of an inch, if I grab your hand and we're struggling with it, there's going to be a jagged wound."
McRedmond has similar questions about the geometry of Hamad's injuries.
In Hamad's July call to TriMet dispatch, he moans, "There's a guy, I didn't let him use the bathroom, he stabbed me in the chest and stomach. I'm having a hard time breathing."
Hamad, 42, described his assailant as a white male in his mid 30s with a check-board tattoo on his neck. On both his TriMet incident report and comp claim, Hamad also says he was cut in the hand, but, McRedmond notes, the medical reports make no mention of a hand injury.
For an attacker to inflict the wounds Hamad reports, McRedmond says, he "would have to hold the weapon so that just the tip of the blade was exposed past the clenched fist," awkwardly elevate or lower the knife, "then strike straight toward the target."
Webb agrees: "In a real knife attack, no one punches you easy. It's going to penetrate more than 5 mm. Plus, he's right about the trajectory. If I'm a moving target and fighting back, the chance of a perfectly horizontal knife thrust is remote. It's virtually impossible to pull off."
Officer Daniel O'Keeffe said Hamad claimed "two witnesses who were standing nearby ran after" his attacker, but police never located those witnesses.
When Portland Police Officer Steve VanMetre spoke to three transients standing underneath I-205, he later reported, "All three told me they did not know anything had happened and were curious as to why the police and fire trucks were there."
Not surprisingly, then, investigators became increasingly skeptical. After the police received an anonymous tip that the Hamad stabbing "did not occur as reported," Sgt. Pete Simpson said, that information was forwarded to the Multnomah County DA for possible charges of initiating a false police report.
Deputy DA John Copic declined to prosecute.
"Based upon information contained in this report we could not prove this case BRD (beyond a reasonable doubt)," Copic wrote in January.
"Additional follow-up and interview of named witnesses would be necessary."
Simpson said the stabbing incidents are still open cases. That's why, Fetsch said, "TriMet is between a rock and a hard place. It's still an open matter and there are privacy issues we can't talk about."
McRedmond understands why the case has languished: "If the police are unable to locate a suspect or prove a crime was committed, they're going to move on."
Nor is it cause, apparently, for TriMet to deny Fadi Hamad his promotion, or set Brian Nixon back behind the wheel.
-- Steve Duin
|The assailant in the Hamad attack. Strange he was never found with such obvious markings|
|This is a sketch of the attacker in the Nixon case|
The end of this video was cut off but they talked about the 'back brace' that he was wearing that 'saved his life'