Man attacks woman with large rock after mental health stay

Court documents dating back to last month show 911 calls reporting the same man threatening to assault women.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A man accused of hitting a woman in the head with a large rock last week appeared in court Thursday. This was just the latest in a series of random, violent attacks on the streets of Portland.

According to court documents, 40-year-old Dwayne Anthony Simpson had just been released from the Unity Center for Behavioral Health when he allegedly assaulted the woman. Police said the attack was random, but it wasn’t the first time they’ve dealt with Simpson. Court documents show 911 calls from last month that reported Simpson threatening to assault women.

The attack happened on August 9 and multiple Portland police officers were called to the area outside the Unity Center in Northeast Portland.

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Court documents say when police arrived, they found a woman covered in blood, her head bound. The woman told police she was leaning against a building and saw Simpson pacing back and forth. She turned around and that’s when Simpson allegedly hit her in the head with a 34-pound rock, about the size of a basketball.

“I think it’s a horrible situation,” said Gwendolyan Straughter, who lives across the street from the behavioral health center where Simpson resided. “There’s so much crime in Portland and it’s just a really bad scene. We have a lot of people who are not well walking around here now.”

After the woman was hit, she fell and hit her head on a concrete barrier. Witnesses told police she was on the ground, motionless for about two minutes. He was then taken to hospital.

“My heart goes out to that woman that was hurt because I don’t like to see anybody hurt anybody,” Straughter said.

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Simpson admitted walking up behind the victim with a rock, but denied hitting him with it. According to court documents, police spoke with two witnesses who witnessed the attack. Officers arrested Simpson and charged him with three felonies, including second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon.

Just last month, police responded to two calls regarding Simpson’s mental health. Court documents show that on July 24, 2022, a 911 call was made saying Simpson was both homicidal and suicidal and wanted to kill a woman or child. The police took him to the hospital. After he was released, police responded to another call where he yelled that he was “going to hit a woman’s skull.” At that time the police were unable to find him.

For those who live and work nearby, these random attacks are becoming all too common.

“I’m not surprised,” said Eoj Johnson, who works nearby. “It’s unfortunate. It becomes the new norm of continued violence. You have a lot of people struggling with mental health and I think when people say they’re going to do something, you should take it seriously.”

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Melissa Eckstein, president of the Unity Center for Behavioral Health gave the following statement to KGW:

“We take the health and well-being of our patients seriously and find what we are seeing in our community distressing. The violence that occurred outside the Unity Center on August 9 is deeply troubling and our thoughts are with the person injured in the attack… When a person comes to the Unity Center, we see them in our Psychiatric Emergency Department — the emergency our department. We have seen a steady increase in numbers over the past two years. Many people come in and stay with us for less than 24 hours. About 65% of them experience homelessness. By June this year, we have cared for more than 5,000 people in our emergency service, which is an average of almost 1,000 people a month… We will continue to advocate for the resources and support we know are badly needed.”

Simpson pleaded not guilty during his court appearance on Thursday. He is due back in court on September 30.

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