SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon man has been charged with a hate crime, assault and other charges after he allegedly attacked a Sikh who was working at a convenience store.
Other customers, including a military veteran, stepped in after they witnessed the attack on Monday.
Andrew Ramsey, 24, of Salem targeted Harwinder Dodd because of Ramsey's perception of the employee's religion, according to a court document. Among the charges is intimidation in the second degree, a misdemeanor hate crime. Ramsey's court-appointed attorney was in a meeting and not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
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One witness, Justin Brecht, a legislative policy adviser in the Oregon State Capitol and a former combat Marine, told FOX 12 TV news that the assailant wanted rolling papers for cigarettes, but didn't have an ID and the clerk wouldn't sell them to him.
Brecht said the clerk told Ramsey to leave, and Ramsey responded by pulling on the clerk's beard, punching him in the face, pulling him to the ground and kicking him. Brecht and other bystanders held Ramsey down until officers got there.
"We were really worried, I mean he could have really injured the store owner. He was beating him pretty good," Brecht told the TV station. "He was bleeding, he had gotten punched quite a bit in the face, and kicked on the ground and thrown to the ground very brutally. It was very serious."
Police said Ramsey threw his shoe at Dodd and tried to steal his head covering. Ramsey was also charged with assault in the fourth degree, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.
Sikh men have unshorn hair, covered with a turban. Sikhism was founded in Punjab, a region in South Asia that spans modern-day Pakistan and northwest India. The first Sikhs came to the Pacific Northwest more than a century ago.
The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in America, said it is monitoring this case. Hate crimes increased by 40 percent in Oregon from 2016 to 2017, according to the FBI.
A task force created by Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum is seeking to help craft legislation that would go before lawmakers during the 2019 session. The goal is to strengthen the state's laws against hate crimes.