ASHLAND, Ore. — Two California men have been charged under Oregon's hate crime statute after they allegedly assaulted a Black gas station attendant in May, according to the Ashland Police Department.
The incident happened on May 13, when Ashland Police responded to the AM/PM gas station at 2380 Ashland Street for reports of an assault in progress. An investigation into the attack found that two white men had assaulted a Black gas station attendant "while using racist language," the agency said.
Detectives took over the investigation and later identified the two men as 23-year-old Caleb Pierce of Fort Jones and 32-year-old Scott Sutton of Yreka, California.
"The investigation substantiated that Pierce and Sutton’s action constituted a bias crime under Oregon law," APD said in a statement.
Hate crimes are known as bias crimes under Oregon law, and represent crimes motivated by bias against another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Oregon's statute was overhauled by the legislature in 2019, adding gender identity as a protected class.
Court documents indicate that Pierce and Sutton were indicted on June 14 in Jackson County, with warrants issued for their arrest.
Police later arrested Pierce and Sutton on charges for Bias Crime in the First Degree (felony), Bias Crime in the Second Degree, Disorderly Conduct in the Second Degree, Assault in the Third Degree, and Harassment. Both men have since been released pending future court dates.
"The Ashland Police Department has held this incident back as to not alert the suspects that they were being investigated, and until indictments had been secured and the suspects arrested, which recently occurred," the agency said. "The Ashland Police Department will vigorously investigate any bias crimes that are brought to its attention, and will, with the District Attorney’s office, pursue all possible charges given the evidence at hand."
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.