Lewis & Clark investigating possible ‘bias’ assault

Both the attack and the social media posts remain under investigation

Lewis and Clark campus, file. (KOIN)
Lewis and Clark campus, file. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A black student at Lewis and Clark College was assaulted Friday night and college officials said they have not ruled out that the incident may have been a bias crime.

In an emergency notification sent out to college students, staff and faculty, Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez wrote: “One of our students was physically assaulted in the estate gardens, near the reflecting pool, early Saturday morning. Our student was treated on scene by medical personnel, is now physically safe, and is being supported on campus.”

KOIN 6 News has learned the assault was reported on campus at 12:49 a.m. Saturday. Both police and firefighters responded but the student didn’t require any medical attention.

According to Sgt. Pete Simpson, the 26-year-old student, a black male, told police he was confronted and assaulted by three white males near the campus pool. The attackers used racially charged language but Simpson wouldn’t use specifics. Police learned the incident actually occurred around 9 p.m. and the student waited to report the assault until after talking with friends.

“The victim told police that the suspect(s) used racial epithets before assaulting him. The victim fought back and was able to get away and go to his residence on campus. The victim did not require medical attention as a result of the assault,” PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson said in a prepared statement.

Gonzalez’s letter was sent out at 3:45 a.m. Saturday. It was titled “An Urgent Letter to the Community” and stated: “The suspects were described as three males. We are not dismissing the possibility that this is a bias crime.”

The suspects are described by police as three college-age white males, 5-feet, 8-inches tall with a medium build.

‎Associate Dean of Students for Student Engagement, Cathy Busha, posted to Facebook a message from Twitter that reads: “Campus Safety & PPB are investigating the assault of a student. Do not be out and about by yourself. Ask us for a ride if you feel unsafe.”

Earlier this week, students at Lewis & Clark College gathered to show their support for black students on campus after an anonymous racist message was posted on social media. The racist message included threats of violence against black students and was posted on the smartphone app Yik Yak.

Another message was reportedly posted Saturday night. Simpson confirms its validity but won’t say if either posts have any direct connection to this incident.

Both the attack and the social media posts remain under investigation, although the latter could prove more difficult.

“It’s a challenge for us to initiate a criminal investigation, because of the first amendment, and we’ll continue to investigate the post piece,” said Simpson. “If we can articulate there’s a criminal offense, then certainly we can do that. We aren’t there yet, that’s still under investigation.”

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales released a statement, saying in part:

“We are in a particularly sensitive time here in Portland and around the world. It is imperative that we do as we’ve done time and time again, and show the world that in Portland, we take care of each other; that we choose to live in Portland because of community, not in spite of it.”

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Detective Todd Prosser at 503-823-9320, todd.prosser@portlandoregon.gov.

KOIN’s Eileen Park contributed to this report.

Comments are closed.