Portland officer hit, killed on I-5
“Z Man” – No one — not even those he arrested — says a bad word about
police veteran Mark Zylawy
Monday, January 28, 2008
KATHLEEN GORMAN The Oregonian Staff
Portland police Officer Mark Zylawy — affectionately known as “Z Man” and
popular even among the crooks he met patrolling Northeast Portland — died
early Sunday when he was struck on Interstate 5.
Zylawy, 40, of Ridgefield, Wash., was on his way to work about 6:30 a.m.
when he began to have car trouble. He pulled to the right shoulder and was
outside his car with the hood up when he was hit by a tractor-trailer rig
driven by Lawrence Stieben, 55, of Milwaukie.
The right lane of southbound I-5 was blocked for about three hours while
officers investigated. No other details about the accident were available,
including whether Zylawy was driving a patrol car or his own vehicle.
News spread quickly through the Portland Police Bureau, where Zylawy had
worked for 17 years, most of that time in inner North and Northeast
Portland. Fellow officers described the married father of four as a
top-notch officer who had perfected the art of community policing.
While being photographed last year for a story about drug-free zones,
Zylawy told The Oregonian that if someone in the neighborhoods he
patrolled had been arrested, chances were good that he’d been the one to
“He was a great one,” said Detective Pete Simpson, a member of a
gang-enforcement team based at the Northeast Precinct.
“You’re not going to hear a bad word about Mark Zylawy from anybody — not
officers, not citizens, not even crooks,” he added.
Zylawy’s beat took him up and down “The Avenue” — Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard — and into neighborhoods where gangs move in and out, drugs
come and go and some longtime residents have found themselves edged out by
“He was one of those officers that people weren’t afraid to talk to,” said
Willie Brown, executive director of the Black Citizens Coalition of
“He was very concerned about our young folks and how drugs were
influencing their lives,” Brown said. “He was one of the champions.”
Zylawy recently was assigned to a street-level neighborhood drug unit out
of downtown’s Central Precinct. If you needed to find a suspect, you
called Zylawy, said Detective Jeff Bender. The Z Man not only knew
everyone, he had a memory like a computer’s, even memorizing criminals’
birth dates, Bender said.
“He’s just one of those guys — he’s bigger than a precinct,” he said.
Plans for a memorial service were just beginning to be put together
“I cannot think of the words to sum up Mark’s life,” Chief Rosie Sizer
said in a statement. “Mark earned the respect of everyone by his hard
work, dedication and integrity. Mark loved being a police officer and gave
more than we will ever be able to give back.”
“None of us can believe that this has happened,” said Detective Robert
King, president of the police union. “We all deeply love him.”