Courtesy Trish Perry

Weekend political rallies turn violent; Bend Police chief issues statement

A rally for President Trump and a counter-protest turned violent Saturday after someone stole a flag, which prompted punches, pepper spray and someone pulling a gun.

The incident, which resulted in a single citation for the man who stole the flag, prompted another rally Sunday outside the Bend Police station from a group who demanded to talk to Police Chief Michael Krantz about the incident.

Krantz, later Sunday, issued a lengthy statement that touched on Saturday’s events and an over-arching statement denouncing white supremacy.

The incident started Saturday afternoon while two separate events were happening in the parking lot at Pilot Butte State Park.

“Most of the day was generally peaceful, however, towards the end of the event, there were reports of someone from one group stealing a flag from a person from the other group, this theft resulted in a fight,” Krantz said in a statement.

Garrett Gerdes, the 23-year-old man who stole the flag, was cited and released, according to police.

OPB reporter Emily Cureton reported police confiscated a handgun from a man and let him go.

“Officers were called to the scene and upon arrival, developed probable cause to arrest the person who stole the flag and wrote that person a citation. We also took several reports of people being assaulted, people being sprayed with bear spray, potentially people being shocked with personal electronic weapons and a report of one person pointing a firearm at another,” he said.

“Additionally, later in the night, we received information that a fight involving two groups downtown resulted in someone firing a flare gun at another person.”

Krantz said as officers tried leaving the state park, a large group blocked patrol cars by sitting and standing in front of them.

“Officers provided warnings that they were committing criminal activity of interfering with police officers and they would be moved by offices if they did not move,” Krantz said.

“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,” he said. “Ultimately, the people who were blocking the officers and who assaulted or harassed officers will be documented in an investigate report and those cases will be referred to the district attorney’s office for formal charges.”

Sunday, members of the Black Lives Matter movement rallied outside the police station demanding answers from Saturday about why the man who pulled a gun wasn’t arrested.

Protestors wrote “Pigs” and other statements on the building.

Lt. Juli McConkey said Monday, the “Bend Police Department officers took reports on many crimes that were reported, we will be conducting follow up investigations on all of these reports of criminal acts.”

“We will work with the District Attorney’s office to ensure that anyone engaged in crimes will be held accountable with appropriate criminal charges,” she said.

This is a developing story. We’re working to get more for our newscasts tonight at 5 p.m.

You can read the police chief’s full statement below:

The Bend Police Department holds our mission to “Protect and Serve” close to our hearts.  It is our guiding light.  We will continue to protect and serve our entire community equitably and with no hesitation in consideration of political party affiliation or ideological identities.

The Bend Police Department denounces any and all violence and criminal activity.  Our goal is to ensure that all members of our community feel safe and do not have fear of being victimized, ever.  The Bend Police Department and our community does not stand for violence, especially violence associated to hate and bias.   I did send an email to many community leaders this week with this text My comments about leaving the statement-making to the elected officials in our community was made in deference to elected leaders who have the political platform and legislative responsibility for making policies that help guide our public agencies and community. My comments were only meant to delineate our different roles; staff members or elected leaders. They were not meant to avoid the topic or suggest silence on the topic. Let me be clear: I am anti-white supremacy.”

Our intent is to work with our partners within the criminal justice system to hold people accountable for criminal behavior and we will continue to work with that intent.

The Bend Police Department evaluates all events that fall under First Amendment protections. We must provide community members the ability to freely express their rights and not infringe on those First Amendment rights.  However, rights to free speech do not include engaging in behavior that is defined as a crime under Oregon, federal or local law, and we will work to ensure that people who engage in criminal behavior will be held accountable.

We ask all community members who wish to engage in expression of these rights to keep interactions peaceful and non-violent, to keep all community members safe and follow all laws. We ask that if community members engage in events, do not bring weapons as typically that would escalate the situation.

Yesterday afternoon there was an event at Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park that was originally described as a political rally.  In conjunction with this event, another event was planned at the same location earlier in the day.  These two different groups could be described as having opposite ideological views.  Approximately 100-150 people in total were present at the park.

Most of the day was generally peaceful, however, towards the end of the event, there were reports of someone from one group stealing a flag from a person from the other group, this theft resulted in a fight.

Officers were called to the scene and upon arrival, developed probable cause to arrest the person who stole the flag and wrote that person a citation. We also took several reports of people being assaulted, people being sprayed with bear spray, potentially people being shocked with personal electronic weapons and a report of one person pointing a firearm at another.  Additionally, later in the night we received information that a fight involving two groups downtown resulted in someone firing a flare gun at another person.

As Bend PD officers were attempting to leave Pilot Butte Neighborhood Park last night, a large group of people blocked the officers exits and would not let them leave by sitting and standing in front of their vehicles.  Officers provided warnings that they were committing criminal activity of interfering with police officers and they would be moved by offices 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 investigate report and those cases will be referred to the district attorney’s office for formal charges.

We are asking that if any person was a victim of a crime at yesterday’s event, to contact  the non-emergency line at (541) 693-6911, and report that crime so we can conduct an investigation.

Bend Police Department officers took reports on many crimes that were reported, we will be conducting follow up investigations on all of these reports of criminal acts.  We will work with the District Attorney’s office to ensure that anyone engaged in crimes will be held accountable with appropriate criminal charges.

In large crowd events, frequently the time to make an arrest is balanced with resources, crowd dynamics and if we have enough information to develop probable cause at the time.

Many times, we need to take time after the event to request and review videos that may be sent to us, gather victim information and gather all additional evidence.  This takes substantial resources and time to ensure the Bend Police Department is providing the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office with all of the evidence we can.

Today, several groups involved in yesterday’s events have planned a march to the Bend Police Department to protest against police actions from yesterday.   These groups have demanded that I meet with them.  I have offered to meet with the organizers several times to hear their complaints, however, my offers have been rebuffed.

We have planned to have resources available to provide overall safety today for this planned event.  We will continue to support community member’s first amendment rights.  If people engage in criminal acts, we will continue to hold persons accountable for criminal behavior as needed.

We encourage all community members to remain peaceful, to not commit criminal acts.

This event planned by these groups have caused us to focus resources away from our normal patrol duties.  Community members may experience a delay in time for officers to arrive to an emergency call for service if we are called tonight.  Tonight the Bend Police Department lobby is closed.  If you are in need of police service please continue to utilize 911 for emergencies and the non-emergency number (541) 693-6911 for reporting non-emergency crimes.

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