Police in Eugene, Oregon, arrested a man early Sunday morning who is accused of throwing rocks through the windows of two Asian restaurants.
Bernard Shifman, 39, was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal mischief — a felony — and one count of disorderly conduct, police said. Shifman was also being investigated in connection with a rash of similar incidents, according to police.
It was unclear whether race was a motivating factor in the alleged acts of vandalism. The Eugene Police Department did not immediately return requests for comment.
Attorney information for Shifman was also not immediately known.
The arrest comes as community leaders in Eugene, a city 111 miles south of Portland, are expected to meet with the mayor, city manager, and police chief Tuesday to discuss the recent vandalism of Asian-owned businesses, Ardyn Wolfe, one of the leaders, told NBC News.
Yi Shen Restaurant and Market, a Eugene staple for two decades, has had its windows broken with rocks once a month for the last six to seven months, Wolfe said. She added that the windows of at least four other Asian-owned businesses, mostly restaurants, have also been damaged, but said some owners who speak English as a second language were reluctant to report those incidents to police.
Asian Americans make up 4 percent of Eugene’s total population of 156,185, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Wolfe, a Filipino American who is active in Eugene’s Asian-American community, said she got involved after a Yi Shen customer called to tell her about owner Phung Hsieh’s ordeal. Even after a local news station broadcast a report on June 28 about the alleged vandalism, Yi Shen Restaurant and Market was hit twice more during the same week, according to Wolfe.
“She’s really scared,” Wolfe said. “Because at first she thought, they’re probably just transients, drunk or whatever. But then it was just happening [as] a regular occurrence, and then she started to fear for her safety and the safety of her employees.”
Hsieh, who is from Vietnam and whose husband died in a beach accident a few years back, had her windows repaired the first few times, Wolfe said. She also filed insurance claims and notified police, Wolfe added, but Hsieh became increasingly nervous when the insurance company called to say it might drop her or increase her premium because of her numerous claims.
Pitching in to do their part, community members organized night watches outside Yi Shen Restaurant and Market, which began July 3, Wolfe said. Sitting in parked cars, volunteers monitored the business from dusk to dawn, until an eight-camera surveillance system was installed on Friday, she said.
The system cost $4,000 and was paid for with donations raised in just one day, Wolfe said. As of Monday, donors have pledged $10,013 — more than double their goal.
“It’s so wonderful to see how the community came together.”
Rachel Hsieh, Phung Hsieh’s daughter, told NBC News her mom wants to share the rest of the money with other Asian-owned businesses that have been vandalized. Wolfe said community organizers were still trying to figure out how best to divvy up and use those funds.
One positive outgrowth of the vandalism was the formation of the Asian/Pacific Islander Community Action Team (APICAT), a group to help Asian-American crime victims. Founded by four community members, one of whom is Wolfe, APICAT organized the night watches for Yi Shen, created the crowdfunding page, and will meet with city officials on Tuesday.
Rachel Hsieh, 28, said she was gladdened by all the support her family has received.
“It’s so wonderful to see how the community came together,” she said.