- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2017

Authorities in Oregon are weighing potential hate crime charges after an employee of a Middle Eastern restaurant in Salem was allegedly attacked this week by a man who told him: “Go back to your country, terrorist.”

Jason Kendall, 52, was charged with second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and second-degree intimidation after being arrested Tuesday at Al Aqsa Fine Middle Eastern Cuisine in downtown Salem, local media reported.

Mr. Kendall told arresting officers that he had been in the middle of a “warrior’s path” Tuesday afternoon when he saw a woman inside the restaurant that he assumed was being held as a slave, according to a Marion County probable cause statement obtained by the Salem Statesman Journal.

He saw the woman’s shirt as a “signal” and knew “that is what Arabs do,” Mr. Kendall said afterwards, according to the statement. He then spotted an individual inside the restaurant he described to police as a “Saddam Hussein looking guy,” and entered the establishment in order to tell the woman she was “free to leave,” the newspaper reported.

Mr. Kendall was ordered out of the restaurant by an employee, but returned a few minutes later and began yelling “get out of America” and “Arab, you need to leave,” the newspaper reported.

Police said Mr. Kendall then physically assaulted the employee with an unknown plastic object before pursuing the worker with a pipe that he reportedly called “the horn of Gabriel.”

Mr. Kendall told police he acted in self-defense. He’s currently scheduled to be arraigned on March 17, and was being held in Mario County Jail on $65,000 bail as of Friday, the newspaper reported.

Second-degree assault carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months behind bars upon conviction. In addition to the weapons count, authorities have charged Mr. Kendall with intimidation because they believe his alleged actions may have been based on his perception of the employee’s race or national origin, according to the newspaper.

Mr. Kendall’s charge sheet might not end there, however. Lt. Dave Okada of Salem Police Department told the newspaper that authorities are considering whether to treat the incident as a potential hate crime.

Police in Oregon’s capital city typically report hate crimes fewer than 10 times a year, said Gretchen Bennett, a staff liaison with the city of Human Rights and Relations Advisory Commission.

“We immediately denounce the hateful activity and explain that this is not representative of all of Salem,” Ms. Bennett told the newspaper.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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