A 38-year-old homeless man who investigators say inexplicably climbed into the passenger seat of an ambulance—then reportedly waved around a knife and choked and bit one of the paramedics inside—was sentenced Tuesday to 14 days in jail and possible mental health treatment.
Jeremiah James Ray told authorities that he has manic depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety.
Ray also was sentenced to three years of probation.
Members of the paramedics profession attended the hearing and told Multnomah County Circuit Judge Kathleen Dailey that they're increasingly concerned about encounters first responders are having with people struggling with mental illness.
They asked for tougher sentences for people such as Ray, but Ray's sentence follows state sentencing guidelines, according to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office. A tougher sentence would call for changes to state law, according to the office.
Ray pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon and third-degree assault for the Feb. 25 random attack on paramedic Pavel Aubuchon-Mendoza near Southwest Fifth Avenue and Sheridan Street.
The ambulance had stopped at a red light when Ray hopped in through the passenger door and moved to the back of the ambulance, according to a probable cause affidavit. Aubuchon-Mendoza followed him to the back and Ray turned on him.
Aubuchon-Mendoza suffered a cut finger, although it was not clear if it was from the knife or glass that was broken during the struggle. The affidavit described a bloody scene. Aubuchon-Mendoza also told investigators that Ray choked him, although Ray wasn't charged with strangulation for impeding breathing.
The attack stopped after the ambulance's driver got out, ran to the back, opened the back doors and helped her partner fight off Ray, investigators say.
Ray then ran into the Duniway Deli & Grocery, told the owner to lock the doors and when she refused, chased her, the affidavit says. Ray was arrested a short while later outside the store.
Ray told jailers that he had been homeless since he moved to Portland four months earlier, he was unemployed and had been living off food stamps. He had previously been convicted of drug possession and providing false information in Texas.
"Nothing will undo the trauma that the victims in this case experienced," Deputy District Attorney BJ Park said in a news release. "No one should ever be attacked. The fact that this happened to a first responder is shocking. Our paramedics help heal our community each day. Jeremiah Ray must be held accountable for his actions, but we also recognize there can be alternative approaches that ensure he receives treatment while simultaneously promoting public safety."
Ray's sentence calls for a mental health evaluation and treatment if determined necessary.
If he violates the terms of his probation, he could be sentenced to more jail time.