PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Portland police arrested a bias crime suspect following a road rage incident on Friday, according to authorities.
Shortly before 2 p.m., two cars pulled up outside of Portland Police Bureau’s Central Precinct on SW 2nd Avenue with one driver yelling at the other, police said. A sergeant, who was outside of the precinct at the time, reportedly requested more officers and separated the men to deescalate the situation.
Police say the sergeant learned one driver was the victim of a bias crime and was menaced with what he thought was a gun, and officers arrested the other driver as a suspect.
Investigators found the suspect, identified as 54-year-old Neal Hollis Walker, pulled up next to the victim near S Macadam Avenue and S Taylors Ferry Road and made biased statements about the victim’s Asian descent and believed he was from China, according to police.
According to PPB, Walker pointed a black object that appeared to look like a gun before driving away, and the victim followed and called 911, with the drivers ending up outside of the precinct.
On the scene, police said they did not find any guns; however, they learned the object was a black plastic air hose, which was seized as evidence.
Portland police said the victim was not injured during the incident.
Walker was booked into Multnomah County Detention Center and faces a second-degree bias charge and menacing.
In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Commissioner Mingus Mapps said “another instance of anti-Asian hate within a week is disgusting and unacceptable. This is not the Portland we know and love. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Portland police to stop this hate crime. I hope this individual will stay in jail until he sees a judge.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it “welcomed” the bias crime charge for Walker. In a statement released Sunday, CAIR’s national communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, called the incident a “manifestation of the rising bigotry.”
“The increasing bias-motivated attacks on Asian-Americans must stop,” Hooper said in the statement. “Hate targeting Asian-Americans is unfortunately a manifestation of the rising bigotry we have seen nationwide targeting all minority communities. We hope charges in this case will send a message to all those who would attack or harass anyone based on racism, xenophobia or other forms of bigotry.”
This incident marks the second anti-Asian racially-motivated attack within a week in Portland. According to police, 34-year-old Dylan Kesterson assaulted a father and his five-year-old daughter as they road bikes along the Eastbank Esplanade July 2.
Police and witnesses claim Kesterson targeted the family from California because he believed they were Japanese.
The incident along the Eastbank sparked outrage after Kesterson was released from jail on the same day he was arrested, due to new guidelines adopted by the state’s criminal justice system.
“It is outrageous that someone accused of a violent bias crime against a parent and a child would be released before appearing in front of a judge,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement after Kesterson skipped court and was re-arrested Wednesday. “Portland Police should not have to arrest someone twice in a situation like this…I am asking the District Attorney to pursue maximum charges in this case.”
Dr. Russell Jeung, Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate, told KOIN 6 News while he was saddened to hear about the nearly back-to-back bias crimes, he was not surprised.
“What’s happening in Oregon now is part of a nation-wide trend sadly,” Jeung explained. “Since COVID-19 there’s been a surge of racism against Asians across the nation.”
According to Jeung, a recent survey conducted by Stop AAPI Hate found that one-in-five Asian and Pacific Islanders had experienced hate within the last year, which amounts to more than four million cases nationally.
He told KOIN 6 News he believes the disturbing trend is likely fueled by three main factors.
“We are being blamed for COVID-19,” Jeung said. “U.S. and China animosity is at a high, and as politicians bash China then people feel free to characterize Asians as the enemy.”
He continued, “and I think the idea of the ‘great replacement theory,’ that claims people of color are coming to replace whites, has been fully circulating. And those factors have all contributed to the rise in racism.”
Police advise victims or witnesses of a bias crime assault to immediately call 911. Victims of other bias crimes where a suspect is no longer present, such as vandalism, are asked to call the non-emergency line at 503-823-3333.