A 28-year-old Ontario man is in the Malheur County Jail where he is awaiting court dates for two separate bias crime incidents which, according to Oregon Revised Statute, are hate crimes.
Tyler Duncan was booked into jail on two charges of bias crime in the second degree (both class A misdemeanors) as well as resisting arrest and probation violations following an incident on Oct. 10.
According to an email from Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe, the crime that occurred on Saturday was “based on threats, not actual physical assault.”
However, after reviewing the case, Goldthorpe said the state of Oregon is adding a Class C felony charge against Duncan for a separate incident involving a different victim.
“The State is also filing a case of Bias Crime in the First Degree for an incident that occurred between Mr. Duncan and a separate man several weeks prior to this (September 27). Duncan had not been lodged on that incident. That incident did involve physical injury. It will be presented to the Grand Jury this week.”
Goldthorpe confirmed that all incidents occurred within the city limits of Ontario.
When asked about more information regarding the events, Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero, who referred the Argus to the District Attorney’s office, saying that if the DA’s office was to consolidate the cases it would be best to have Goldthorpe “issue a press release on the entire filing.”
“The local agency heads have agreed that once the DA has an actual case filing we will defer all media inquiries to him,” wrote Romero.
Goldthorpe responded to this saying he would typically only issue an official press release “if a major crime has been committed.”
The district attorney did confirm that both incidents Duncan is facing charges for happened in public places, and added that in the most incident on Saturday, citizens intervened to help. They were not at locations with a large gathering of any kind, just around town, Goldthorpe confirmed.
In a news release issued Monday evening, the Ontario Police Department detailed the incidents.
The Sept. 27 incident occurred just after 8 p.m. in the area of 106 Southeast Second Street. Police responded to a report of two men fighting.
During their investigation, police learned that the men had allegedly “engaged in a physical altercation” as a result of comments made by both parties, “triggered by comments that could be considered racially charged comments.”
In the most recent altercation on Oct. 9, police responded to another fight in the parking lot of NAPA Auto Parts on East Idaho Avenue at about 11:37 p.m. During that investigation, police learned that Duncan allegedly “made racially charged comments” towards two Black male teenagers, who had been walking to a nearby retailer. Police noted that Duncan is Caucasian.
According to an article by Oregon Public Broadcasting on April 30, the number of hate crimes and bias incidents have spiked 366% in Oregon this year.
Oregon’s bias crime laws were formerly called intimidation laws, but they were updated in 2019, when the Oregon Legislature passed SB 577, according to the Oregon Department of Justice. This updated not only the legal terminology and the law, the Senate Bill created a victim-centered response hotline for reporting bias, requires law enforcement to refer all victims of bias incidents to support services, and streamlines collection about bias occurring in Oregon.
The Oregon DOJ defines bias crime as a criminal offense, including threats of or actual physical violence, property damage or harassment, committed against a person or property that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against another person’s race, color, religion, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.
According to an updated bulletin issued to law enforcement in May by the Oregon DOJ, law enforcement agencies have many responsibilities when it comes to handling bias crime incidents, which includes referring the reporting party to a qualifying local victim service agency or to the Bias Response Hotline.
Additionally, the DOJ says law enforcement agencies have the responsibility of holding offenders accountable when they commit a bias crime that demonstrates to the victim, the offender, and the community that these types of crimes won’t be ignored or tolerated.