Vehicle vandalism creates racial controversy

Aug. 8, 2018 — A small car abandoned by the side of the road is usually not a newsworthy event in Florence. There are some circumstances, however, where the break-down of an old vehicle has much more significance to local residents.

On Aug. 7, Dylien Jack was heading to work at about 8 a.m. along Heceta Beach Road when he noticed that the vehicle, a light blue four-door Honda with the license plate QJK-343, had been vandalized with a racial epitaph written in bright pink spray paint.

“Over the last few weeks, the windshield had been smashed, then the doors were bashed in,” Jack said of the car, which had been there for about three weeks. “But Tuesday morning, I couldn’t believe what I saw. I went back to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing.” 

What he saw were the words “Kill N-gers” [sic] sprayed in large letters across the side of the vehicle facing the roadway. Jack posted a photo on the Florence, Oregon Facebook page and, by 9 a.m., had received dozens of comments before the post was eventually removed.

“I waited a long time before pressing the ‘post’ button, but just decided it was important to say something and deal with the consequences,” said Jack. “I was glad to see so many people not happy with what happened.”

Residents who spoke with the Siuslaw News said they had contacted the City of Florence and were referred to Lane County, which told them there are constraints on what actions could be taken to remove the car. Ultimately, responsibility for the removal of an abandoned vehicle depends on a number of factors, including the actual geographical location of the car, its legal ownership and the physical state of the vehicle.

Lane County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) Public Information Officer Carrie Carver explained that the agency is aware of the situation surrounding the vandalized Honda but, unfortunately, it is limited in the response it can take to remove the car.

Carver pointed out the abandoned vehicle was sitting on private property and unless it posed a public safety risk, LCSO needs permission from the property or vehicle owner to remove the abandoned vehicle.

Carver also stated that since there was no imminent danger being posed by the car at the time, LCSO has no plans to remove the vehicle.

The City of Florence also has no oversight responsibility for the vehicle or any authority to intervene in the matter.

Florence Police Commander John Pitcher reiterated some of Carver’s points and said his department has no jurisdictional responsibility for the car.

At the request of Siuslaw News, in an effort to determine where that responsibility lies, employees at the City Planning Department checked on the ownership of the land adjacent to the turnout where the vehicle sits, leading to some degree of uncertainty as to the oversight responsibility for that specific location. However, the department provided the name of the property owner as James Head, a Florence resident that lives in the Heceta Beach area.

During a phone conversation, Head told Siuslaw News he was surprised to learn of the issue on the boundary of his property and made it clear that he wanted the vehicle removed from the turnout on Heceta Beach Road.

“I've seen it sitting there every time I drive by for the last two weeks. The vehicle is definitely incurring on my property and I want it removed,” Head said. “I’ve had cars pull in there before, but they never sat for so long. I thought the county would remove it before now.”

Head was provided with the contact information for the county employee responsible for the removal of abandoned vehicles and stated he would contact them immediately to remove the vehicle.

The spray-painted message of racial hate on a car was shocking to most residents who commented on Facebook, as well as those who contacted Siuslaw News in person or over the phone. In fact, when a reporter arrived to photograph the obscenities by about 10 a.m., someone had already covered over the racist slogan with white paint.

One man, who asked not to be identified, had stopped by the vehicle and, after stating he was a member of the close-knit veteran group “Band of Brothers,” said, “This is not what we are about in Florence. I can’t stand the fact that some idiots still believe this bulls--t. Many of us have sacrificed, for years of our lives, so that all Americans can live in peace. This is not going to stand in our town, not on our watch.”

A different opinion was expressed by a passer-by in a large black pick-up with an American flag displayed prominently in the back window. He shouted, “F--k you, ni--er lovers!” as he sped off.

Head said he was hopeful that police will initiate some type of inquiry to determine who might have tagged the vehicle with racist slurs.

“The offensiveness of what has been described to me makes me hope the police can find this person and charge them with something. This is just not right,” Head said. 

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