Kenneth Pittman, who escaped injury during two tours in Iraq with the Oregon National Guard, according to his ex-wife, is in a coma following an assault Saturday at a railroad crossing in Pendleton.

Pendleton police said a witness saw another driver strike Pittman, 24, around 1 p.m. Saturday as they waited for a passing freight train at the Southwest 13th Street crossing. Pittman fell, apparently striking his head, said Police Chief Stuart Roberts.

Pittman is in serious condition in intensive care at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Richland, Wash., said Kadlec spokesman Jim Hall. Pittman’s ex-wife, Rhiannon Smith, 24, of Pendleton, said Pittman has been unconscious since the incident.

Police are searching for a suspect, but they have little to go on, Roberts said.

The witness, third in a line of vehicles at the crossing, told police that Pittman, second in line, honked his horn. The driver of the first vehicle exited, Pittman exited his truck and the two exchanged words. After the assailant dropped Pittman with one blow and fled, the witness drove a short distance and pulled to the curb, but did not call police.

The witness described Pittman’s assailant as 6 feet 6 to 6 feet 2 inches tall, 200 pounds, bald, with a black mustache and possibly a black soul patch or goatee, Roberts said.

Pittman fell, and may have struck his head on his pickup and the pavement, Roberts said. The witness told police the assailant got into a gray car and left.

 “Our witness to this was so shaken up, he just took off,” Roberts said.

Another passerby called 9-1-1 at 1:07 p.m. to report a man unconscious, bleeding and having trouble breathing under a red pickup, according to the Pendleton police activity log.

Police and paramedics responded, and an officer saw the parked vehicle and spoke to the driver, Roberts said. He said the driver was upset and kept repeating the assault had “just happened.”

The witness, whom Roberts did not identify, was so disturbed by the incident that he has trouble recalling it, Roberts said.

Roberts and Smith encouraged anyone with information about the incident to call police at 541-276-4411.

“Somebody has got to know what happened,” Smith said.

Shannon Denton, advertising director at Pendleton Grain Growers, said Pittman works at the 1000 S.W. Dorion Ave. auto service center.

Smith said doctors placed Pittman into a coma to help him recover. His 4-year-old daughter is in tears because she can’t speak to her father on the phone, Smith said. But she won’t take the girl to the hospital.

“I don’t want her to see him that way,” Smith said.

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