PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After a pair of men in Tigard pleaded guilty to assaulting their Black neighbor a year ago, the Washington County District Attorney’s Office aims to prevent future bias incidents.
That task will fall to the county’s Bias Crime Multidisciplinary Team. It’s the first of its kind in Oregon, where hate crimes are reportedly on the rise, and has even caught the eye of the Federal Government.
The team has received $600,000 in grant funding over the past two years, which District Attorney Kevin Barton says will be used to continue protecting victims and holding perpetrators accountable.
“When bias crimes happen big or small, it’s important that we respond to those crimes to ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable and responsible for that, but also that the victim of that crime (and victims of future crimes) know that when something happens, there will be a response and justice will follow,” Barton said.
A shocking video obtained by KOIN 6, which can be seen in the video player above, shows a father and son, Raymond Hanners and Damion Sherk, attack their neighbor outside a Tigard apartment complex in October 2022.
According to WCSO, Hanners used racial slurs while provoking his Black neighbor to approach him before he and Sherk assaulted the man – who was left with multiple injuries.
Last week, both Hanners and Sherk pleaded guilty to assault, though Hanners additionally pleaded guilty to second-degree bias crime.
The sheriff’s office says both men were sentenced to three years of supervised probation and ordered to anger evaluations. KOIN 6 asked Barton if that was enough for accountability.
“In fact, that’s the first response I had when I saw this. And, you know, we want to do as much as we can to respond in an appropriate level when a crime occurs,” he said. “And at the end of the day, the DAs office, we can’t control ultimately, every single sentence that happens and in this particular case. We actually advocated for a higher sentence.”
The court decision comes after the FBI released data showing the number of bias incidents and victims reported in Oregon has grown in the last four years. State and local data also show these incidents are widely underreported.
But since developing the team and increasing community outreach, Barton said his office has seen a major spike in incident reports. In fact, of the cases referred and prosecuted, the DA’s office has filed charges in nine out of every 10 cases.
Barton says his office plans to use the additional money to hire an outreach coordinator who can enhance public engagement and education as well as help victims report crimes.
“This basically doubles the amount of funding that we have,” Barton said. “And really, we’re just tickled by it because the Federal Government reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, we’re so happy with what you’re doing. Can you do more?’”
If you or someone you know has been a victim, you can call 1-844-924-2427 or file a report online via Oregon Department of Justice Bias Crime or Incident Hotline.