Police are searching for an unknown assailant who sprayed pepper spray on three African-American children as they were waiting in their mother’s car in Northeast Portland on Tuesday.
The children, ages ages 12, 11, and 7, were waiting in their mother’s car at their grandmother’s Oregon home when a man rode by on a bicycle. The Portland Mercury reports that the man first asked if they were okay, then cycled back and sprayed pepper spray on all of them through the car’s sunroof.
Reports of the attack first circulated on social media, after which the Portland Police Bureau confirmed the information in a news release.
“The suspect turned around northbound, riding back by the car and sprayed the kids with pepper spray,” the release says. “Garner reported to police that the man yelled a racial epithet at them as he pepper sprayed the kids then rode away.”
KOIN reports that the children fled the car when he began pepper spraying them with what police believe may have been bear spray.
One boy told reporters that he got scared and tried to run up a tree. Another one of the boys described how his entire body burned from the pepper spray attack.
“I was mad, angry, and traumatized at the same time. I couldn’t breathe and my body felt like it was on fire. It was burning very bad.”
The children’s mother and grandmother responded to the commotion and were also pepper sprayed by the attacker, who shouted the N-word at the women.
The boys’ mother told reporters she felt helpless and in pain after the attack.
“How could this happen and I can’t save my kids?” she told reporters. “It literally felt like it was eating my face off. I got in the shower five times and my skin was still burning.”
The mother’s insurance company has informed her that her car may be a total loss.
According to the police report, the suspect is a white or Hispanic male in his mid-20s, and approximately five-feet, nine-inches tall and 160 pounds. He was wearing black spandex-style bicycle clothes and a grey and black helmet. The suspect was riding a road-style bicycle (not a mountain bike), with a white box on the back of the bike. The white box was later recovered, but it contained only tools and had no identifying information inside it.
Paramedics treated the children at the scene, but the 12-year-old boy needed to be treated at a local hospital later in the evening.
A neighbor told The Mercury that the fumes coming off the boy from the pepper spray were enough to cause one of the doctors treating him to have trouble breathing.
“He had to have several milk cloths put on him and eventually had to be sedated.”
The neighbor also stressed that the children had no disagreement with the assailant before the attack.
“He said, ‘How are you guys doing?’ One of them said, ‘Fine,'” she said. “These are kids who were just loaded up into the car at their grandma’s house.”
Neighbors have been rallying around the family since the incident. One neighbor told KPTV that she was shocked to see such a level of hatred towards children, one of whom has special needs.
“I know that people do horrible things to children, but I never could believe it actually happened,” she told station. “It made me sick to my stomach.”
“To have hate of that magnitude and to pour that hate onto an innocent victim, a child who is helpless who cannot defend themselves? That’s extreme,” said another neighbor.
“It’s not just a bumper sticker or a yard sign, black lives matter. It’s an actual movement. It’s a cry for, ‘Hey, we are equal. We want equality. That’s all we want. We are people,'” she added.
One of the neighbors has set up a crowdfunding account at youcaring.org to raise money for the family.
The police say that the crime is being investigated as a bias attack, and they ask anyone with information about the crime to contact Detective Jeff Sharp at 503-823-9773 or via email at: email@example.com.
[Feature Image by Vladimir Arndt/Shutterstock]