Dave Dahl of Dave's Killer Bread wins conditional release, avoids state hospital

By Emily E. Smith | The Oregonian | January 30, 2015

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Dave Dahl isn't allowed to drive or hang out in taverns, but he can go home.

A Washington County judge spared him Friday from a stay in the Oregon State Hospital.

The judge decided instead to keep him on conditional release, under the supervision of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board, with a slew of requirements including the judge's specific ban on bars and cars.

Which, Dahl later said, didn't bother him at all.

"I'll ride a bike," he said with a laugh. "I'll take the bus."

In court, the 52-year-old cofounder of Dave's Killer Bread, nodded at the judge's decision. And at the end of the nearly five-hour hearing, he turned around and smiled.

Circuit Judge Kirsten Thompson, who made the ruling Friday evening, found Dahl guilty except for insanity in October on charges of third-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon -- in this case, a black Cadillac Escalade.

The charges stemmed from a November 2013 dust-up with sheriff's deputies, summoned by Dahl's friends when he was exhibiting the signs of a mental health crisis.

Prosecutor Chris Quinn argued that Dahl's history of violence and aggression toward police warranted his commitment to the state hospital.

"Mr. Dahl's problems go beyond mental health and drug issues," Quinn said. "He also has a violence problem."

Dahl's defense attorney, Stephen Houze, contended that Dahl's behavior was the result of undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder.

The lawyer also said the cops who responded didn't have enough training to properly deal with someone "literally out of his mind."

The incident that landed Dahl in court began Nov. 14, 2013. Sheriff's deputies arrived to the call in Cedar Hills, just as Dahl was leaving in his Escalade. He first crashed into a patrol car and then took off.

Deputies tailed the Escalade through residential streets before Dahl rammed a deputy's car in a cul-de-sac.

Dahl backed the Escalade up and slammed into the patrol car a second time.

A corporal saw the Escalade's reverse lights come on, and he drove into the SUV, pinning it against the deputy's vehicle.

Dahl fought the deputies as they took him into custody. After they delivered multiple blows and used a Taser on him, they eventually handcuffed him.

After his arrest, he went to a psychiatric hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering from a manic episode with psychotic features. He's been receiving treatment ever since.

"I am sorry for what I did," Dahl said Friday. "There's nothing I can do to change it. It's done."

He denied having ill will toward police.

"I don't have anything against cops," he said. "I just don't."

He asked the judge to allow him to stay on conditional release, a status that will keep him checking in regularly with doctors and case workers.

Judge Thompson granted his request. Dahl was not displaying symptoms of severe, untreated illness, she said. He had demonstrated that he could be adequately treated and supervised in the community.

Before Dahl joined his family's bakery in 2004, he spent 15 years in and out of prison. He later launched the wildly successful Dave's Killer Bread. In 2012, his family sold a half-stake in the business to expand nationwide.

Outside of court, defense lawyer Houze said until this case began, Dahl didn't understand before what role mental illness played in his struggles. Now he knows, and he'll turn his experience into an opportunity to help others.

"I made just an amazing mistake," Dahl said.

But, as he's done before, he's striving to improve.

"I'm getting better and better all the time," he said.