Issaquah Highlands resident Paul Omekanda was just walking out to his car on a Wednesday night, but he had a bad feeling about the routine action.
Knowing how often drivers speed down his street, 25th Avenue Northeast, Omekanda told his wife, who is expecting a baby, to stay inside, and that he would walk outdoors instead.
“You literally have to think like that … This isn’t the way to live,” Omekanda said.
As he reached his car, a silver Mercedes-Benz Coupe came rushing down the street right at him, with no apparent attempt to reduce speed.
“Everything is slowing down [in that instant],” Omekanda described. “You think, ‘I’m about to get hit.’”
Without a second thought, Omekanda dove to the ground in between two parked cars, narrowly escaping being hit at what he estimated at 45 to 50 miles per hour. The car drove on down the street.
The Mercedes was going so fast that Omekanda said if he didn’t know better, he would have thought the driver meant to kill him.
“I legit thought, ‘Is this person trying to hit me?’” he said.
Omekanda was unharmed, but extremely shook up.
“It could’ve been my pregnant wife out there,” he said. “With a pregnant wife and pregnant people in our building, the fact that we’re jumping out of the way of moving vehicles is pretty alarming.”
Highlands residents have been working since last autumn to make the city aware of just how big of a problem speeding has become in the neighborhood. The Issaquah Police Department and the Highlands Council held a town hall in November to address the issue and the city released a statement in December that police would be looking out for speeders. But residents say that these efforts have not caused a noticeable reduction in the dangerous behavior.
“I’ve lived here six-and-a-half years and I haven’t seen any improvement,” said Highlands resident Stephanie Buyagawan. She would like to see a stronger day-to-day police presence in the neighborhood, noting that the only time she notices police around is during the first week of the school year at Grand Ridge Elementary on Northeast Park Drive.
“After the first week of school dies down, you never see a police officer again,” she said. “I think if there was more of a presence … it would deter people, but there’s never any enforcement on that hill.”
Two weeks ago, Buyagawan’s dog, Chancellor, was hit by a speeding vehicle on 25th Avenue Northeast while being walked on a leash.
“The car kept going — it slowed down before the incline, then gunned it and took off,” she said.
The dog ran off in a state of shock, and it was 30 minutes before Buyagawan, her husband and neighbors found him; when they caught up with Chancellor, he bled all over his owners.
“I had an awful, sinking feeling in my stomach,” Buyagawan described. “He was bleeding so badly from his mouth, we thought we were going to lose him.”
The dog had bitten through his tongue, rupturing a blood vessel, and had suffered a concussion, as well as having received numerous cuts and bruises. Luckily, he survived, but the veterinarian said that if Chancellor hadn’t been found when he was, he would have died not long afterwards.
Chancellor’s story is not an anomaly — two other neighbors on Buyagawan’s street recently had pets hit by cars. One of them, a dog, survived, but the other, a cat, died of its injuries.
“Now we never let our cats out and we only let our dogs out for walks,” Buyagawan said.
The number of injured animals has residents wondering if the next time, it will be a child who is lying hurt in the road.
“Incidents are happening every month, and I’m more concerned now than ever because I have a child on the way,” Omekanda said. “Could my kid get hit like that dog did?”
With residents worried about letting their children ride bicycles down their neighborhood streets, Omekanda is especially anxious about his soon-to-be newborn son, Phillip Michael. He said, “Everything I do, I do for Phillip Michael.”
Omekanda is determined to stand united with his neighbors to insist on greater action from the police.
“They’re here to protect us and we are the taxpayers and we are concerned,” he said.
“There’s a time when you must do something … everyone has that urgency,” Omekanda continued. “Something needs to be done before something happens. Things are brewing. We’re at that point where things are boiling over.”