This reporting was originally published in The Stranger's sister paper, The Portland Mercury.
Wendy and Trudy Dragoon were crossing a street in their Portland neighborhood of Brentwood-Darlington Sunday evening around 7:30 when they heard an engine rev nearby. They turned to see a truck speeding towards them. The couple ran onto the sidewalk to watch the truck whip by, do a U-turn, and park in front of a nearby home. Three men exited the vehicle, including a skinny 20-something who had been yelling out the window at the women as the truck drove by.
"He got out of the car and said something about 'Beating the shit out of fucking dykes,'" says Wendy. When Trudy crossed the street to where the truck was parked to confront the man, Wendy began filming using her cell phone.
In a video that's since been uploaded to Facebook, the man is seen throwing up his fists at Trudy, who stands patiently in front of him. He doesn't swing. But he does go on to call her a "gay pride-ass bitch" and a number of other homophobic and sexist slurs.
"You think you scare me? You're a fucking woman," says the man, as his friends start unloading some bags from the truck and bringing them into the house. "I'll spit in your face… I'll literally put you to fucking sleep."
The man’s friends, one of whom tells Trudy he owns the neighboring house, attempts to separate the man from Trudy by standing between them.
At the end of the 3-minute-long video, a police officer on patrol happens to drive by and asks the group what's going on.
"He's harassing me," says Trudy.
"She won't get off my property," says the first man.
Then the video cuts out. In a interview with the Mercury, Wendy Dragoon filled in the rest of the story. Wendy said that the Portland police officer told Trudy to "just ignore them."
"I was like, 'Absolutely not,'" Wendy recalls telling the officer. "I said, 'This is harassment. This has to be a hate crime.'"
But according to Dragoon, the officer allegedly told the couple that unless the man was physically violent, it wasn't a hate crime.
"He actually said, 'Being mean to you isn't against the law,'" Dragoon says.
That’s not necessarily the case. Under Oregon's hate crime law, a person can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor if they:
Intentionally, because of the person’s perception of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin... subjects the other person to alarm by threatening:
(A) To inflict serious physical injury upon or to commit a felony affecting the other person, or a member of the person’s family
Based on the video, Sunday's incident seems to fit this description.
According to Christopher Burley, spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), the unnamed officer said he "advised the groups to avoid one another and they separated." Because the incident "is an open investigation," Burley is unable to comment more specifically regarding the officer's response.
"I was not present at the time of the incident and a video does not necessarily convey everything that was occurring at the time of this incident," wrote Burley in an email to the Portland Mercury. He said the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office may further investigate the video.
The evening incident continued into the early morning hours, according to the Dragoons. Wendy says that around midnight, she and Trudy were awakened by loud fireworks coming from the same property where the truck had parked. They walked outside to confirm, and discovered another neighbor already outside on the phone, reporting the late-night fireworks show to the police. The neighbor allegedly told the police dispatch that the suspects had been harassing Trudy and Wendy earlier.
Three officers showed up, including the same one from earlier. Again, Dragoon says she tried to explain to the two new officers that they had been harassed by a man on the property earlier. This time, Dragoon says, one of the other officers asked, "But how do you know its a hate crime? How is he supposed to know you're gay?"
"And that was it," Dragoon says. "They clearly weren't there to help us."
Dragoon believes the owners of the property are new to the neighborhood—she doesn't recall seeing them before yesterday. She says she often walks by the house with her two kids, since it's on the way to Dairy Queen.
"I don't feel safe in my home anymore. It wouldn't take them long to find out where we live," she says.
This isn’t the only recent incident involving Portland police officers allegedly ignoring allegations of a hate crime.
In June, a woman reported that a man had yelled homophobic slurs at her and beat up her brother while they were leaving Portland's Pride Festival. According to her, one of the reporting officers claimed it wasn't a hate crime because her brother was straight. PPB officers, however, have argued that the state law that addresses these crimes doesn't allow them to fully pursue alleged hate crimes.
While PPB's Burley can't comment on Sunday's event, he did acknowledge the underlying problem: "The Police Bureau is aware that speech, such as the speech present in this video, instills fear in members of our community."
Wendy' Dragoon's video inspired community members to track down her neighbor's home and decorate the street outside with chalk rainbows, hearts, and positive messages. Witnesses say a man (identified as the "older man" in Wendy's video) came out of the house and sprayed down the sidewalk with water. He allegedly called the police to report people graffitiing his property.
One of the two officers who responded to the call was the same officer who told the Dragoons to "ignore" their harasser on Sunday. According to Wendy, the officer recorded statements from both Dragoon women about Sunday's incident—something he hadn't done the day of.
His explanation for not taking a statement earlier: "He told me 'it was a judgment call' and there were 'more pressing calls' to attend to," Wendy told The Portland Mercury this morning.