Central Eastside business owner assaulted and robbed by car thieves

The owner of Rinella Produce, a wholesale produce distributor in Portland’s Central Eastside, was attacked and robbed by three suspects who were trying to break into his car on Sunday morning, according to workers at the business. The owner, who did not want to be identified, suffered a broken nose, a concussion and a cut on his head that required stitches. He was also held at gunpoint and forced to give up his wallet and phone.

The incident happened around 6:30 a.m. outside the store on Southeast 2nd Avenue and Madison Street. The owner had arrived early to prepare for the day’s deliveries and noticed that his car window was smashed. He confronted the suspects, who were still inside his car, and that’s when they assaulted him. One of them hit him with a crowbar and another pointed a gun at him.

The suspects then fled the scene in a stolen silver Honda Civic with Oregon license plate 727 JZT. The owner managed to call 911 from a nearby business and was taken to a hospital. He was released later that day and is recovering at home.

The aftermath

The attack on the Rinella Produce owner is the latest in a series of violent incidents that have plagued the Central Eastside Industrial District, which has been struggling with homelessness, drug use and crime. In November 2023, the co-founder of Salt & Straw, a popular ice cream company based in the district, threatened to move out of Oregon because of the deteriorating conditions. He cited multiple break-ins, vandalism and harassment by people living on the streets.

Central Eastside business owner assaulted and robbed by car thieves

The outcry from the business community prompted city leaders to launch a “90-day-reset” plan in January 2023, which aimed to improve safety and livability in the area. The plan included increased police patrols, campsite removals, garbage cleanups, graffiti abatement and social services outreach. According to data released by Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office on Tuesday, the plan resulted in significant improvements in the district. Workers removed 321 unsanctioned camps, 4,963 pounds of garbage and 73,755 square feet of graffiti. Police recovered 19 guns and 23 stolen vehicles.

However, some business owners say that the progress is fragile and that more needs to be done to address the root causes of the problems. They also say that they have lost private security services in the area because they have not secured a new contract yet. Clare Briglio, the executive director of the Central Eastside Industrial Council, a key business group in the district, announced her resignation this week. She said that she was grateful to have led the council and its enhanced service district, called Central Eastside Together, for the past 18 months. She called the period a “critical juncture” in Portland.

The response

The Portland Police Bureau said that it is investigating the attack on the Rinella Produce owner as an armed robbery and assault. It asked anyone with information about the suspects or the stolen car to contact Detective Brent Christensen at 503-823-0842 or

Mayor Wheeler said that he was “outraged” by the incident and that he would continue to work with the Central Eastside Industrial Council and other partners to make the district safer and cleaner. He said that he plans to implement similar “reset” plans in other business districts in Portland.

“The results are clear: a safer and cleaner community where residents and business owners have a hand in restoring their neighborhood,” Wheeler said in a statement. “The problems facing the City of Portland outpace the resources we have available to address them and we appreciated [Briglio’s] willingness to work with the City to bring positive change.”

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