After Clashes at Pilot Butte, District Attorney Announces Charges | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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After Clashes at Pilot Butte, District Attorney Announces Charges 

Black Lives Matter protesters, the Bend Police Department and a pro-Trump brigade clashed three weeks ago. The BPD wanted 22 people charged, but the DA charged seven

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel is charging seven people following the fights that broke out during competing political demonstrations at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park on Oct. 3.

Hummel announced the charges at a press conference Oct. 29.

Two weeks ago, the Bend Police Department released a statement suggesting that 22 people who were involved in the conflict should be charged.

click to enlarge Black Lives Matter protesters mingle with pro-Trump activists on Oct. 3 at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park before violence broke out later that afternoon. - COURTNEY CHRISTENSON
  • Courtney Christenson
  • Black Lives Matter protesters mingle with pro-Trump activists on Oct. 3 at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park before violence broke out later that afternoon.

Hummel declined to charge demonstrators who acted in defiance against police officers and those who used pepper spray in self-defense, despite cops recommending charges. People who sat in front of police vehicles, and who blocked traffic for a short time are protected under the Oregon Constitution, Hummel said, citing previous rulings by the Oregon Supreme Court which defined noncooperation with peace officers as "passive resistance."

A full list of charges is listed at the end of this story.

Note: Throughout this article, we've referenced a number of videos published online by activists, other reporters, the District Attorney's Office, and the Bend Police Department to piece together the events of the day.

How it started

The groups that clashed earlier this month gathered primarily in response to the first presidential debate Sept. 29, when moderator Chris Wallace asked President Donald Trump during the debate if he would be willing to direct the Proud Boys and other white supremacist hate groups to stand down. Instead, Trump’s message to the Proud Boys was to “stand back and stand by.”

According to Kerstin Arias, co-founder of the Central Oregon Diversity Project, this statement inspired some local pro-Trump activists to bully her online, along with two members of the Central Oregon Peacekeepers, Luke Richter and Josie Stanfield.

click to enlarge Kerstin Arias makes a speech to other activists at Pilot Butte on Oct. 3. - KERSTIN ARIAS
  • Kerstin Arias
  • Kerstin Arias makes a speech to other activists at Pilot Butte on Oct. 3.

“They said they have their eyes on us, and we’ll get what is coming for us,” Arias told the Source.

Meanwhile, a local pro-Trump group, led by Nicholas Dieringer, planned a rally for Saturday, Oct. 3 in Drake Park. The group would meet at the park for a social and then parade around town flying Trump flags and other paraphernalia. Rumors circulated that the Proud Boys would be there, Arias said.

click to enlarge Posted September 25. Notice the online flyer directs participants to meet at Drake Park. - NICHOLAS DIERINGER
  • Nicholas Dieringer
  • Posted September 25. Notice the online flyer directs participants to meet at Drake Park.

click to enlarge Announcement for "Stand by, Kick back!" gathering at Pilot Butte posted at 5:13 am on Oct. 3. - CENTRAL OREGON PEACEKEEPERS
  • Central Oregon Peacekeepers
  • Announcement for "Stand by, Kick back!" gathering at Pilot Butte posted at 5:13 am on Oct. 3.
Instead of planning a counter-protest against the Trump rally in Drake Park, Arias suggested that Black Lives Matter groups should gather to make a statement, but do it somewhere at a safe distance from Drake Park to prevent a collision with the Trump rally.

“I said ‘I think we should show our community that this is a city of inclusion, love, peace and unity,” Arias said. “And that is what so many people in our group stand for.”

At 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Arias and fellow activists got the word out on social media that they were planning a family picnic at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park and invited local LBGTQ and Latinx groups.

“Basically, every single organization that is about human rights and love,” Arias said.

The event was scheduled between noon and 4 p.m. Activists and friends met to share cake, food, drinks, snacks, field games and music.

Meanwhile, Dieringer, who was organizing the Trump rally and cruise, directed his followers to meet at Pilot Butte at 1pm instead of Drake Park at 3pm. He made the announcement at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

click to enlarge Activists create masks at a crafts table in Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park. - KERSTIN ARIAS
  • Kerstin Arias
  • Activists create masks at a crafts table in Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park.

Some members of his own group objected, citing that the BLM activists had announced their event location earlier that day at the same place.

At noon, Dieringer responded, “THERE IS NO BLM EVENT AT THE SAME PLACE!!! ITS AS RUMOR.”

The Trump brigade arrived and set up in the park around 1:30 p.m., and some people from that group started drinking, Arias told the Source.

People from both sides of the park signed a chalkboard that read, “I denounce white supremacy and all its forms,” according Courtney Christenson, a member of Clergy for Justice, the group that brought the sign.

click to enlarge Members of Clergy for Justice brought this sign down to the event at Pilot Butte and people from both the pro-Trump group and BLM signed it throughout the day. - COURTNEY CHRISTENSON
  • Courtney Christenson
  • Members of Clergy for Justice brought this sign down to the event at Pilot Butte and people from both the pro-Trump group and BLM signed it throughout the day.

One man drove a motorbike around in circles, taunting the BLM protesters, according to Arias. Around that time, the BLM group called the Bend Police Department who arrived, drove through and left.

Over the next few hours, the conflict began to escalate as some people in the pro-Trump group became increasingly intoxicated and ridiculed the BLM group; the BLM protesters screamed at them. Again, BLM protesters called the police, but this time their arrival was delayed.

Then 23-year-old Garrett Gerdes, (who was out walking his dog and was frustrated with the cacophony near his house) grabbed a small Trump flag off the back of a truck and tossed it on the ground.

Several pro-Trump demonstrators chased him down and BLM protesters rushed to his defense. Michael Green from the Trump group punched several BLM activists, and then Luke Richter from COPK sprayed the assailant with mace, according to a video posted by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

In the midst of the melee, a large pickup truck began rolling backwards and a BLM protester, Caleb Campbell (Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell's nephew) got inside of the truck for a few seconds to pull the emergency brake, according to District Attorney Hummel.

A man points a gun at the crowd after his truck begins to roll backward and a BLM activist tries to pull the emergency brake. - MIKE SATCHER
  • Mike Satcher
  • A man points a gun at the crowd after his truck begins to roll backward and a BLM activist tries to pull the emergency brake.
The man who owned the truck, Jake Strayer, then pulled on gun on Campbell and Carly Denkers who were outside the truck.

Just seconds before he had told the crowd, "You put pepper on me, you'll f—— get a hole in you, copy that?"

By this time, BPD officers were back on the scene. They eventually took two of Strayer's guns, issued him a receipt for confiscating them, and let him go.

They also ushered out most of the rest of pro-Trump crowd, and most BLM protesters left as well.

Arias told the Source that the BLM activists were furious with the police for not arresting the man brandishing a gun, as well as other pro-Trump demonstrators who were drinking beer in the park before leaving in their trucks. A number of BLM protesters stood in front a police car that was about to leave and yelled and swore at the police, demanding answers.

“Thousands of my people are dying here every day… Don’t tell me to f—— move out of the way… We are the reason you guys get f—— paid, and you can’t do your f—- job… We have questions, you answer them, we move,” shouted Adriana Aquarius, who lives in Bend, as seen in footage of the incident.

Others demanded that the police denounce white supremacy.

The police then tried to arrest Aquarius and she sat on the ground and police tried to drag her across the pavement. Soon many other protesters piled on top of her. Police eventually left the scene, as BLM protesters hurled insults in their wake.

Filing Complaints

The next day, COPK and other groups planned a demonstration outside of the Bend Police station in order to file complaints against the police who were at Pilot Butte the day before. The crowd of around 100 people briefly (less than two minutes) blocked traffic on Hwy. 20 near to the station. While they had many complaints, one accused Cpl. Jeff Frickey of choking a protester while trying to move her in the midst of a fight. Others claimed the police laughed at them and spit on them and that some hid their badge numbers.

The protesters broadcast a conversation with Police Chief Mike Krantz into the crowd gathered in front of the police station. Krantz later released a statement saying he offered to meet with the leaders of the protest in person, but was rebuffed. The BPD later released a statement a few weeks later that said seven of the protesters from Sunday should be charged with disorderly conduct and one with criminal trespass.

On Friday, Oct. 9, the BLM group demonstrated outside of the Bend Police station again to file complaints. The station was locked, but had an envelope of police complaint forms taped to the door.

That morning, the Bend Police Department posted:

“We have been made aware of an event taking place at the Bend Police Department today. We have closed our parking lot, but our department is still operating under normal COVID procedures. Due to this event, we expect interruption of service and an increased response time to incidents reported at Bend PD.”

Krantz released a similar statement the Sunday before, stating that response times could be slower due to the demonstration.

Bend Police Suggest Charges

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Bend Police department released a statement announcing that it completed its investigation into the Pilot Butte event on Oct. 3 and the Bend Police station demonstration on Oct. 4. BPD investigators spent more than 400 hours reviewing cell footage and other forms of evidence, according to the release.

The BPD said that 22 people should be charged with violations including interfering with police, theft, assault, disorderly conduct, unlawful use of a stun gun, mace and a weapon and participating in a riot.

While it is traditional BPD practice to send out press releases to the public to announce alleged crimes, suggesting criminal charges through a statement is novel.

“During my six years in office I’ve never seen the police department inform the public as to what charges they think I should file,” Hummel told the Source. “And I don’t think it ever happened before my tenure in office.”

Hummel said he met with Bend PD investigators on Oct. 20 to pick up the files in person and to review the videos.

A few minutes later, Hummel arrived back at his desk and opened an email from the BPD announcing its wish-list of charges against the demonstrators at Pilot Butte. The list did not name names, but instead identified people by their gender (male adult, female adult.)

Hummel called BPD Chief Mike Krantz to clear things up.

“I said, ‘Mike, I was thrown by that. You know I’m the one who makes the charging decisions.’

“I have been elected to use my experience and values,” Hummel explained. “He’s new here. Maybe this is how they do it in Portland.”

Krantz was recently hired as chief after a 27-year career with the Portland Police Bureau. The PPB has been under attack for years for allegedly favoring groups like the Proud Boys during past protest confrontations in Portland.

The BPD’s suggested charges presented a Catch-22 for Hummel. If he added or subtracted anything from the list, the public would question his decisions. Whichever side of the spectrum Hummel ruled on, it could cause potential friction between the DA’s office and BPD.

click to enlarge Nicholas Dieringer, who planned a pro-Trump rally and cruise in Bend on Oct. 3, signs a chalk board which reads “I denounce white supremacy and all its forms.” For hours, both BLM activists and the pro-Trump group co-existed at the park in relative harmony. - COURTNEY CHRISTENSON
  • Courtney Christenson
  • Nicholas Dieringer, who planned a pro-Trump rally and cruise in Bend on Oct. 3, signs a chalk board which reads “I denounce white supremacy and all its forms.” For hours, both BLM activists and the pro-Trump group co-existed at the park in relative harmony.
Who’s bullying who?

On Oct. 4, Police Chief Krantz released a statement denouncing white supremacy and explaining the confrontation from the BPD’s point of view.

“As Bend PD officers were attempting to leave Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park last night, a large group of people blocked the officer’s exits and would not let them leave by sitting and standing in front of their vehicles,” Krantz wrote. “Officers provided warnings that they were committing criminal activity by interfering with police officers and they would be moved by officers if they did not move. Ultimately, these persons were physically moved by officers with as minimal force as was necessary to move them. During this, several of the people punched, hit and assaulted officers. Ultimately, the people who were blocking the officers and who assaulted or harassed officers will be documented in an investigative report and those cases will be referred to the District Attorney’s office for formal charges.”

On Oct. 8, BPD released four videos showcasing some of the most confrontational moments of the day. In one video, as police tried to remove the people who were sitting in front of their cars, some protesters insisted the officers denounce white supremacy. Others shouted obscenities, pushed the officers and used aggressive body language. Josie Stanfield (who had been bullied online by pro-Trump supporters) yelled at each nearby police officer one by one screaming, “you’re pigs!” while getting within inches of their face.

Krantz addressed the Bend City Council on Oct. 21 and said his officers responded very well to the incident. He added that the officers could use more training around how to deal with violent protests.

On his fourth day of work as Bend Police Chief, a protest erupted near the Old Mill District that drew a crowd of 1,500 and made national news. Earlier that day, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested of two Bend men with undocumented status. Krantz later warned the crowd that armed federal agents would arrive to clear the demonstration.
The after effect

Courtney Christenson, a member of Clergy for Justice, was at Pilot Butte most of the day on Oct. 3.

She said she believed the way the BPD handled the situation was extreme and that no one should be charged for using pepper spray.

“The [Central Oregon] Peacekeepers de-escalated a situation that would have escalated. The Trump guy sucker-punched Mike [Satcher of COPK] in the face and Luke [Richter of COPK} used the spray in self-defense. Seconds later, when a driver came running towards the crowd pointing a gun, Luke came over and sprayed him. This should be applauded: to prevent violence with pepper spray.

“I think this is a good example of how certain members of our community are being treated by law enforcement,” Christenson said. “The fact that they didn’t [defend the BLM protesters] surprised me. But it did not surprise the people of color that are activist leaders this town. I hope as the community processes the events of that day, they acknowledge that the anger [of the BLM activists] should not overshadow the injustices they are trying to overcome.”

The Source contacted Nicholas Dieringer for this story and did not receive a response.

The evening after the Pilot Butte demonstrations, a man of Latin descent, Geovanni Ortega Vergara, was attacked near Newport Avenue and later found unconscious near his home. Activists have suggested the violence may have been linked to the group from the Trump rally who continued to cruise around Bend throughout the evening. The police have not reported any additional information, but his sister, Dulce Pelayo, started a fundraiser for him.
The actual charges

District Attorney Hummel held a press conference on Oct. 29 at the Deschutes County Fairground & Expo Center. It was not open to the public and police officers were stationed outside the building checking press credentials.

Hummel didn't charge anyone involved in the demonstrations outside of the Bend Police station, although the BPD suggested seven people should be charged. Several people who had used pepper spray (at Pilot Butte) in self-defense or in defense of others were not charged, including Luke Richter and Brent Barnett. Two pro-Trump demonstrators who threw punches, Kalan Roberts and Alan Stout, were not charged due to self-defense and unclear motives, Hummel said.

Hummel concluded that the police did not choke Kourtni Perez in the process of trying to move her from blocking their vehicles, nor did he charge Perez for any misconduct.

No one was charged for aggressive speech or actions towards the police, because Hummel deemed this non-threatening.

"People have strong feelings about seeing a video of someone standing in front of an officer and screaming at them. It is not a crime until it becomes a crime, and it's not a crime until it becomes a threat. It's hard being a police officer, and it's also hard walking the streets of America being a person of color. So you have officers under attack, and people of color who have been under attack their whole life and its coming to the fore right now as it needs to. We need to address issues of race in our communities, issues of policing. It's playing out on the streets, we need to also have it play out in board rooms, in the meeting rooms, in the city halls and in DA offices. Sometimes it takes a fire to ignite the conversation. Well this conversation has been ignited, and if it goes into criminality I will be charging people. If its talk, the talk is hard... the talk is hard, difficult, challenging and overdue."

Hummel said that he did think the police officers surveilled left-leaning social media accounts more than those of the right-wing activists, but that the cops' overall investigation was fair to both sides.

"We do know that unfortunately violence is committed on both sides, but also, as of late, more violence is being committed by right-wing extremists than people on the left. It makes our community not as safe as possible if we're only looking at people on the left, and not people on the right," Hummel said.

Seven people were charged for the incidents at Pilot Butte:

As with all cases, all of the people charged are innocent until proven guilty. 

Garrett Lee Gerdes, 23-year-old from Bend
Gerdes is charged with criminal mischief in the second degree and theft in the third degree for allegedly breaking a plastic mount that held a Trump flag as he tore it from a truck and threw it on the ground.

John Wells, 38-year old from Bend
Wells is charged with harassment for allegedly punching Kalan Roberts when Roberts was already on the ground. Roberts had chased after Gerdes after he stole the flag. Wells had a knuckle Taser on his fist but it is unclear whether it was activated.

Michael Green, 44-year-old from Bend
Green is accused of three counts of assault in the fourth degree for allegedly punching John Wells, Andrew Heller and Michael Satcher. These people were posing no threat to Green or anyone else, Hummel said. Green is also charged wit disorderly conduct for alleged violent, threatening behavior throughout the melee. According to video evidence, Green became heavily involved in the brawl that broke out after Gerdes took the flag, and Green threw punches throughout the crowd, hitting multiple BLM protesters. In one video, Green sucker punches Satcher, who is looking the other direction.

Nutasha Nicole Duran, 32-year-old from Bend
Duran is charged with one count of unlawful use of mace in the second degree for allegedly spraying Jake Strayer (the man who pointed the gun at the crowd), because as Hummel said, she sprayed him after he put the gun down and got in his truck.

Jake Thomas Strayer, 42-year-old from Bend
Strayer is charged with one count of unlawful use of a weapon, two counts of menacing and two counts of pointing a firearm at another. Strayer allegedly, and according to multiple videos and photos, pointed a gun at the people who were trying to pull up the emergency brake in his truck when it started to roll.

Adriana Aquarius, 21-year-old from Bend
Aquarius is charged with one count of harassment for allegedly performing a forearm strike on a Bend Police Officer. Aquarius also allegedly blocked the patrol cars from leaving and yelled, hit and shoved multiple officers, but was not charged because her behavior was defined as passive resistance.

Stephanie VanKlootwyk, 50-year-old from Bend
VanKlootwy is charged with one count of harassment for allegedly performing forearm strike to Corporal Frickey of Bend PD. VanKlootwyk also participated in passive resistance.

Below is Hummel's full statement on the incident:

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