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Portland man steals forklift, chases pedestrian, drives erratically through downtown

Joffre Zelinski reportedly laughed “maniacally” as he chased a pedestrian and shouted, “I literally stole this”


Portland Police Bureau, Central Precinct/Twitter

By Beth Slovic

PORTLAND — A Portland man accused of stealing an $80,000 forklift from a Portland State University parking garage and driving it erratically at least 15 blocks through downtown laughed “maniacally” as he chased a pedestrian and shouted to passers-by, “I literally stole this,” court records show.

Joffre Zelinski, 30, was arrested and released from jail Tuesday after police say he stole a construction forklift parked behind a locked fence on an upper floor of the PSU garage at 1872 S.W. Broadway.

A witness at a Portland Streetcar stop near Southwest 6th Avenue and Mill Street said she at first assumed the forklift driver was part of a construction crew. Then she saw him drive the forklift at a pedestrian while laughing “maniacally.” She dialed 911 and boarded the streetcar.

When she got off the streetcar near the Safeway behind the Portland Art Museum four blocks west, she spotted the forklift again. The driver of the forklift was going so fast he was keeping pace with cars, she said. “I literally stole this,” he allegedly shouted.

Portland police found the forklift driver at Southwest 4th Avenue and Harvey Milk Street about 10 blocks north. He was driving the wrong way on a one-way street, police say.

At first the driver, later identified as Zelinski, said he worked for the construction company named on the equipment. He then said he got the forklift at “some parking garage, I don’t know,” according to court records.

Court records also show Zelinski has 2014 convictions for theft and possession of methamphetamine. He entered a diversion program for driving under the influence of intoxicants in 2021.

He now faces felony charges of burglary, theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle, plus misdemeanor charges of menacing and criminal mischief. His arraignment is scheduled for April 20.

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