1/19/23 News Update


<<Portland and Multnomah County are paying a combined $80,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a man shot with less-lethal munitions by a Portland police officer and a county sheriff’s sergeant during a declared riot downtown on July 4, 2020.

The city will pay $75,000 and the county $5,000 to Erik Hoofnagle, 35, of Portland.

Senior Deputy City Attorney Caroline Turco said the case was resolved with the help of mediation before a retired judge. They reached a “mutually agreeable settlement” to cover Hoofnagle’s injuries and attorney fees, Turco told City Council members Wednesday.

Hoofnagle had been walking away from police with a crowd that was ordered to move northbound on Southwest Fourth Avenue when police fired a smoke grenade at the group. Hoofnagle kicked the smoke canister diagonally across the street to get it out of the way of protesters near the Fourth Avenue intersection with Southwest Washington Street, according to his lawyers.

He was then shot with a volley of munitions, according to video played for the council and court reports.

Hoofnagle suffered 14 wounds, including a broken right knee cap, according to his lawyers.

Hoofnagle was arrested, accused of riot and interfering with police, but the charges were dismissed in early August at the request of a deputy district attorney.

Hoofnagle didn’t commit any crimes, nor did he actively resist any lawful orders, said J. Ashlee Albies, one of his lawyers.

The council approved the settlement in a 4-0 vote. The mayor was out of town.

Portland Officer Brent Taylor shot Hoofnagle at least nine times with pink paint projectiles fired from an FN303 launcher as Hoofnagle was stepping backward away from the police line, Albies said. He also was shot in the back after he had fallen on the ground, she said.

Multnomah County Sgt. Kyle Smith, part of the sheriff’s Rapid Response Team, fired a single 40mm blue-tipped projectile from a shotgun in response to Hoofnagle’s kicking of the smoke canister back at police, according to Christopher Gilmore, a senior assistant county attorney.

The suit alleged that Taylor filed a false report, claiming he had shot Hoofnagle “in the act of picking up and throwing” a smoking canister at police. But the video revealed Hoofnagle didn’t pick up, “much less throw” any canister, his lawyers wrote in court papers.

Hoofnagle was shot four days after a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against police in a separate suit. U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez barred police from firing less-lethal FN303 and 40mm launchers and using pepper spray on people engaged in passive resistance.

Taylor and police argued that Hoofnagle’s actions were “perceived” by multiple officers as “active aggression,” saying he kicked the canister toward officers during a riot, according to Aaron P. Hisel, Taylor’s lawyer.

City lawyers also argued there was no evidence Hoofnagle’s kneecap was broken or shattered. They said Hoofnagle may have been struck twice by Taylor’s projectiles and not in the knee. He didn’t disperse with the crowd but “turned around and kicked the canister,” Turco wrote in a court filing.

Gilmore, the county’s lawyer, argued in court papers that the smoke canister “placed the officers at direct risk of harm from impact, prevented officers from identifying incoming projectiles from the crowd, and interfered with a lawful police action that was intended to disperse an ongoing riot.”

Albies countered: “Despite the government’s proffered interest in clearing the downtown streets, they are not justified in using force against a person who is not an active threat at the time the force was used.” Hoofnagle was protecting the public by kicking the smoke canister away from himself and other protesters who were retreating from police, she said.>>


<<The Portland City Council has agreed to pay a man $75,000 for the alleged financial, physical and emotional damages that he suffered during a recorded clash with a Portland Police Bureau officer and a Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputy during a George Floyd protest in downtown Portland on July 4, 2020.

According to the suit, which was filed on June 3, 2021, Oregon resident Erik Hoofnagle was protesting police violence near intersection of Southwest 4th and Washington streets when Officer Brent Taylor shot him multiple times with FN 303 less-lethal projectiles. The suit states that Deputy Kyle Smith also shot Hoofnagle with a “more powerful” 40 mm projectile, causing a deep-thigh flesh wound.

“Hoofnagle had 14 separate wounds caused by these two grenadiers, and perhaps others,” the suit states. “Taylor then demonstrably lied about the circumstances to cover up the lack of probable cause to batter, arrest, incarcerate and charge Hoofnagle with criminal activity.”>>

<<During the same meeting, the council also from a citizen’s committee on ways to improve policing.

The co-chairs of the Police Accountability Commission presented their report identifying barriers to police accountability, such as a lack of faith in police by the public. They also claimed the system is less accessible for people who are homeless.

The oversight commission claimed the system is less accessible for people who are homeless and talked about the relationship between police and the city they serve.

“We live in a time where public trust in government is suffering and this presents us with an opportunity to build a system and build trust at the same time,” said Portland city commissioner Carmen Rubio.>>



<<A man charged with arson and bias crimes in Multnomah County for setting fire to a mosque and vandalizing two Jewish synagogues is now facing federal hate crime charges.

Federal prosecutors are filing four charges against Michael Bivins, 35, for his alleged racist crime spree in spring 2022. Bivins was recorded on security cameras setting fire to the Muslim Community Center of Portland. He allegedly smashed windows at Congregations Shir Tikvah and Beth Israel. He also is accused of smashing windows at a Black-owned restaurant and vandalizing Beth Israel with anti-Jewish graffiti.

“Bivins used spray paint to write ‘Die Juden’ on the exterior of the sanctuary building at Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Portland, Oregon, and he used a rock to break a window in another building on the synagogue’s campus,” a court filing outlining the charges states.

Bivins, a former freelance journalist living in Portland, expressed increasingly racist views online in the months leading up to the attacks. He is also facing state charges and was indicted on May 17, 2022, in Multnomah County on 11 charges related to the hate-fueled violence.

Bivins’ string of alleged hate crimes came at the same time as a statewide increase in reported bias crimes since at least 2020.

Oregonians reported 1,099 bias crimes to an Oregon Department of Justice hotline in 2020, the first year the hotline existed. The following year, 1,683 bias crimes were reported, a 53% increase.

When Bivins was arrested in May 2022, the number of bias crimes and reported incidents was increasing dramatically. Fay Stetz-Waters, the Oregon Department of Justice director of civil rights and social justice, said at the time that there had been 958 reports to the hotline since Jan. 1; 688 of them were in April and May.

“For all three years running now, the numbers that are the highest, the activity that is the most violent and increasing in intensity is anti-Black violence,” Stetz-Waters said in a May interview. “It’s everywhere. It is like a virus that has permeated the state and people are dug in … There seems to be an active effort to undermine people’s existence and it’s quite disturbing.”

Stetz-Waters said the state logged increases in anti-female incidents in early 2022 as well as anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander reports during AAPI heritage month. She also said there were increased attacks on the LGBTQ community as Pride Month approached.>>

<<Data in Portland, which goes back further than statewide data, paints an equally troubling picture.

Portland police took reports of 10 bias crimes in the city in 2015, and another 10 are marked as “ambiguous” or still under investigation. That number steadily ballooned over the ensuing six years until 2021 when the bureau logged 54 bias crimes and another 41 “bias incidents,” a new reporting category created by Oregon lawmakers in 2020 to include expressions of racism or hate that don’t constitute a crime. Through November 2022, the city recorded 58 bias incidents and 37 bias crimes.

While hate crimes quintupled in Portland, Bivins went from racism critic to adherent.

He made a name for himself covering street protests and political extremists in Portland, often calling out and criticizing the racist beliefs he would later come to embrace. He worked for several local news organizations. Willamette Week managing editor Aaron Mesh said in May the paper was conducting a review of his work. Mesh later told OPB they did not find any concerning signs in his work.

Bivins also shared protest videos with The Oregonian/OregonLive and some national media outlets. He stopped working regularly for local media outlets in 2019. OPB never contracted with Bivins for news coverage.

Four and a half years after covering a white supremacist rally and calling some of what he saw “an abomination,” Bivins posted excerpts on Twitter from a late 19th century antisemitic screed, suggested Vice President Kamala Harris was a mad cow and called President Biden’s former press secretary a prostitute, among many other racist, transphobic and ableist insults.

According to court records, police found clothes, spray paint and a painted rock in Bivins’ mom’s house matching security footage and items recovered from the attacks. Police also said they found a racist article among Bivins’ belongings.>>


<<A Portland woman has pleaded guilty for her role in the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.

Lilith Saer pleaded guilty Wednesday to parading, demonstrating or picketing at a Capitol building. Other charges against her – including violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a Capitol building and entering and remaining in a restricted building – were dropped as part of her plea agreement.>>


<<A 30-year-old Portland woman pleaded guilty for her role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Lilith Saer appeared by video before a federal judge in Washington D.C.

During Wednesday morning’s hearing, Saer pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building. She will be sentenced on April 4.

Court documents suggest social media sleuths helped identify the Portland woman who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Saer, who had distinguishable, bright blue hair, could be seen in several videos from the Capitol that day. Several of the images of Saer were shared on Twitter by known left-wing activists in the Portland area.

Investigators were able to confirm her identity through public records and previous appearances, including a 2019 protest outside of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s house. During that protest, Saer was interviewed by Portland State University’s student newspaper, the Vanguard, and the video was posted to YouTube.

Court records suggest Saer was a believer in the QAnon conspiracy theory.

On June 24, 2022 a federal judge signed a criminal complaint against Saer, charging her with entering a restricted building with the intent to disrupt an official proceeding and disorderly or disruptive conduct inside the Capitol building. Both were misdemeanor charges. Saer was taken into custody on July 7.>>



<<A white pickup truck with a rack of roof lights blazing pulled up to an electrical substation in the small town of Morton, Washington, about 70 miles south of Seattle on June 16. In the predawn dark next to the city cemetery, a man in a dark hoodie and baseball cap hopped out of the truck. He broke a steel gate apart, likely with a crowbar later found at the scene, and walked inside the fenced facility on his way to sabotaging its high-voltage transformers.

Electrical substations transform high-voltage electricity to the lower voltages that keep America’s lights on, its food cold, its medical devices operating and its phones charged. Far-flung substations can be difficult to secure. Damaging even a single one can shut off critical services to thousands of people.

Attacks like the one in Morton are on the rise in the Northwest – there have been 15 since June, more than in the previous six years combined.

The recent attacks make this region a hotspot for such activity, according to a joint investigation by Oregon Public Broadcasting and KUOW. In most cases, the motives aren’t known. But as the FBI and extremism researchers have noted, neo-Nazis have been calling for just such attacks.

“The individuals of concern believe that an attack on electrical infrastructure will contribute to their ideological goal of causing societal collapse and a subsequent race war in the United States,” according to an FBI memo obtained by OPB and KUOW.

The substation in Morton that was attacked in June is connected to transmission lines that deliver hydropower from the Cowlitz Falls Dam.

The energy coursing through those lines is more than 500 times the voltage that comes out of your light sockets or power outlets and, experts say, is easily lethal to anyone foolish enough to mess around with it.

Despite the danger, the Morton substation intruder entered the facility and deliberately damaged equipment. (To avoid inspiring copycat crimes, OPB and KUOW are omitting details of techniques used in this attack and others.)

“I saw a white flash through the garage door window,” one eyewitness across the street told Morton Police. “The power cut off.”

The 4 a.m. incident plunged about 7,500 customers, or most of the eastern half of rural Lewis County, into darkness for several hours, according to police.

The incursion kicked off a rash of attacks on the Northwest power grid in 2022, according to public records obtained by OPB and KUOW. It is unclear whether most of the attacks are connected.

As with most of them, no one has been arrested, and no one has claimed responsibility.

Pacific Northwest utilities have reported a surge of attacks to the FBI in recent months. Attacks on substations in Oregon and Washington predate a December attack in Moore County, North Carolina, that left at least 40,000 people without power for days.

In some cases, the attacks appear to follow manuals disseminated online by neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists.

For years, law enforcement and academics have warned about plots on the nation’s electrical grid from “accelerationist” groups that advocate, however implausibly, that taking down the grid will hasten the demise of the federal government and start a race war.

A Nov. 22 alert from FBI headquarters and the agency’s Newark field office warned of an increase of “threats to electrical infrastructure” from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (“RMVE”). Those would include white supremacists and other so-called accelerationists attempting to sow chaos.

“The FBI has received reports of threats to electrical infrastructure by threat actors who espouse RMVE ideology to create civil disorder and inspire further violence,” the FBI warning noted.

Weeks later, a second bulletin sent by the FBI’s Portland field office reported specific attacks were carried out in Oregon and Washington. The attacks were carried out using firearms, hand tools, flames and chains “possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure,” according to the bulletin dated Dec. 2.

“In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security fences by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, [and] shooting equipment from a distance,” the bulletin stated. “No theft was reported in either case, making it apparent that the intent was likely to disable electrical systems and not for monetary profit.”>>

<<Plots by white supremacists to target electrical infrastructure in the United States have increased dramatically since 2016, according to a report published by the Program on Extremism at The George Washington University in September.

“The rise of accelerationist ideology and doctrine during the past decade likely fueled the increased risk of attack plots within white supremacist milieus targeting critical infrastructure, and the energy sector in particular,” according to the report.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged six individuals with a “discernible, tangible connection” to neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen Division and The Base with plots to destroy power lines, even a nuclear reactor, the report states.

Other white-supremacist plots have threatened electrical infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.

In 2020 and 2021, federal prosecutors charged five neo-Nazis in connection with conspiracy to damage an energy facility. According to court documents filed by the government, one of the defendants carried a handwritten list of about a dozen locations in Idaho and surrounding states, each housing “a transformer, substation, or other component of the power grid for the Northwest United States, that if destroyed could cause damage” to the grid.

The goal, federal prosecutors stated, was “to attack the power grid both for the purpose of creating general chaos and to provide cover and ease of escape in those areas in which they planned to undertake assassinations and other desired operations to further their goal of creating a white ethno-state.”>>

<<Finally, in 2022, three white supremacists from Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. According to the Justice Department, each defendant agreed to take down substations in a different area of the country using high-powered rifles. They believed it could bring about unrest, financial ruin and even a race war, according to prosecutors.

Even though the motives behind most of the 2022 attacks are unclear, the history of white supremacists’ focus on the electrical grid has troubled law enforcement and extremist researchers.>>


<<Law enforcement authorities said two electric substations in Woodland were attacked by vandals, adding to the list of known attacks on the power grid. The two cases in the Cowlitz County city happened in mid-November of last year, before other attacks that gained national attention.

The vandalism at one location on November 17 was combined with damage at an adjoining construction site at the same time.>>

<<Police say the substation at the end of Robinson Road was hit in the early morning hours and caused a very brief outage before other systems kicked in.

Vandals busted into the control house, according to Woodland Police Sergeant James Keller.

“And that’s what they try to break into to damage the circuit boards to  try to take the power station out,” he said.

Right next to the substation is a building going up for a commercial trailer business. Jeff Zimmerman is the owner of Trailer Sales LLC. He said the suspects broke through the fence to get into the Cowlitz PUD substation.

“And what’s interesting is that they didn’t go into the substation to try and steal stuff, they went into the substation to damage it,” said Zimmerman.

It appears the vandals had hopes of doing more damage, with the help of forklifts belonging to construction crews at the building site. Brian Kemp is construction superintendent for Bunch Construction, overseeing the building job. Kemp’s phone rang early on November 17.

“They gave me call, said ‘the FBI was here, the substation just got attacked’, and I was in shock. They sent me photos and I was in disbelief,” said Kemp.

Construction crews took photos that show how the vandals unsuccessfully tried to hotwire two forklifts, causing about a thousand dollars in damage in the process.

“So my thought is, if they’re trying to hotwire the forklifts and didn’t steal anything, I honestly think they were going to try and use them as battering rams,” said Kemp.

The Robinson Road case was the first of two incidents. The other attack happened the next day at a Cowlitz PUD substation on Pekin Road on the west side of Woodland.

“This time they damaged the circuit boards even more, the window was smashed out and the outage was several hours,” said Sgt. Keller.

Two substations were damaged in two days’ time in one relatively small town.  Like others before, possible motives run the gamut.>>

<<“Anytime somebody messes with the power grid there’s always ulterior motives, whether it’s terrorism, whether it is extremism, or in Pierce County, they took the power grid down to try and break into businesses,” said Keller.

Keller added that they have very little to go on with the Woodland cases, but they are working with the FBI to try and figure out who did this and why.

For now, business owner Zimmerman said it’s anybody’s guess why the substations were targeted.

“You can draw a lot of conclusions; until they catch who’s done it you’re not going to know.

According to Sgt. Keller, one thing is very clear in all these cases: anyone breaking into power substations is risking death messing with high voltage equipment.>>



<<The Newberg school board has quietly rescinded its ban on educators displaying symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement or gay pride, following a court settlement with a teachers’ union.

A Yamhill County judge ruled in September that the ban was unconstitutional.

The town of about 25,000 residents nestled in Oregon’s wine country had became an unlikely focal point for the national battle over schooling between the left and right.>>

<<“The policy will not be amended or changed, it is gone,” Newberg Superintendent Stephen Phillips told Oregon Public Broadcasting.>>




Oregon lawmakers approved $10 million last month to address a statewide shortage of public defenders. Since then, the state agency responsible for allocating the money, the Office of Public Defense Services, has been brainstorming how to spend it. The latest plan floated by the agency’s new director, Jessica Kampfe: $6 million for “retention incentives” and the bulk of the rest to hire more “professional staff.”

An appointed commission is still refining the final proposal, to be submitted to lawmakers. It meets again Thursday. According to a report presented to the commission last week, nearly 800 defendants across the state lack court-appointed attorneys. It blamed the “systemic underresourcing of public defense” and described a vicious cycle: High caseloads, exacerbated by pandemic court closures, burn out lawyers, who leave, thus increasing caseloads and leading to even more burnout. It’s unclear if the $10 million solution offered by legislators will be enough to break the cycle. An October survey found 60% of public defenders in the past two years had left their jobs. The agency’s last approved budget was $340 million.>>



The City of Portland published a map of reported camps: