ClackCo surveyor accused of painting swastika on Black man’s memorial

Clackamas County

Vigil of young black man destroyed by county employee

OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — A Clackamas County surveyor is facing multiple charges after allegedly vandalizing the memorial of a Black man who died in police custody in July.

Oregon City Police confirmed Thursday evening the arrest of 20-year-old Collin Michael Williams in connection to the bias crime that occurred Tuesday night and said Williams confessed to vandalizing the memorial of 23-year-old Jermelle Madison, a Black man who died while in police custody at the Clackamas County Jail last month.

“Basically somebody went and damaged the memorial that had been put up, kicked over candles and also painted a swastika on the ground near the memorial,” Oregon City Police Sgt. David Edwins told KOIN 6 News. 

Williams, a surveyor for the county, filmed himself destroying the memorial and posted about the act on social media under a pseudonym, according to authorities.

“The person actually did brag about it,” Edwins said. “Stating ‘I unenthusiastically commit a hate crime,’ … which is alarming.”

Vigil for Jermelle Madison (Courtesy Caysha Clayton)

“What was your life about that you hate somebody that’s already dead? ‘Cause they’re Black? I don’t understand that,” Lynette Madison explained she was in disbelief when she heard her grandson’s memorial and been vandalized with imagery of a swastika.

Madison’s family told KOIN 6 the memorial was erected at the corner of Beavercreek Road in Oregon City, as a place to remember the loss of Jermelle and help raise awareness for those struggling with mental health crises in the system. 

According to his grandmother Madison, who had a documented history of mental health issues was supposed to be on suicide watch at the time of his death.

“He did end up in Clackamas County Jail and he did end up hanging himself because he was not watched,” Madison recalled. “And then we had that vigil and it broke my heart that somebody — I mean, it’s just pictures, it’s just flowers, it’s candles. Why would somebody be hateful?”

Madison’s grandmother and step-mom returned to the vigil site today to help restore it. They told KOIN 6 they will remember him as a talented young man with a bright smile would do anything to help those around him.

Williams appeared in Clackamas County Court on Friday facing charges of Criminal Mischief, Abuse of a Memorial and Bias Crime. 

State prosecutors brought forth evidence that Williams had a pattern of dangerous radical thinking, and exhibited text messages from the defendant’s phone. The records illustrate Williams made several threats to kill Oregon Governor Kate Brown and displayed what the prosecution referred to as “a terrifying amount of racist rhetoric.”

Bail was set for $100,000 and William’s trial will be held Oct. 7, 2021.

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