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Mayor bills Occupy Portland for damage to patrol cars

Gresham patrol car allegedly damaged by Occupy Portland resident
by: Contributed photo Richard Allen Fuller

It must have made for an interesting sight: Gresham's Mayor Shane Bemis and Police Chief Craig Junginger hand-delivering an invoice to the information booth at Occupy Portland for damage to two Gresham patrol cars.

But that's how the two city officials spent the early hours Thursday, Nov. 10.

Beats the morning a couple of Gresham police officers had on Tuesday, Nov. 8, when they discovered their patrol cars vandalized while parked near the encampment.

The officers had just testified at the Multnomah County Courthouse, and had parked their marked patrol cars on Southwest Third Avenue, next to Chapman Square, where the protesters have set up camp.

Portland police arrested Richard Allen Fuller, 47, who reportedly was living at the Occupy Portland encampment, on allegations of second-degree criminal mischief, said Sgt. Pete Simpson, Portland police spokesman.

Fuller was still armed with the hammer he reportedly damaged the vehicles with when he was arrested.

So bright and early Thursday morning, Bemis and Junginger presented an invoice for $1,546.52 in body damage, along with a letter. It begins: 'Dear Occupy Portland.'

'It seems patently unfair that Gresham residents, the vast majority of whom are 99-percenters, should have to pay to repair the damage caused by a member of your movement,' it reads, adding that Fuller was building a shelter when he allegedly redirected his tool at the police cars.

'More harm than good'

The letter goes on to request the invoice be paid from $16,000 recent news reports indicate the movement has on hand.

'I have been sympathetic to many of the important issues the 'Occupy' movement has raised regarding wealth concentration and corporate abuses threatening the middle class,' Bemis wrote. '… While I firmly believe in the Constitutional freedom of expression, it seems to me that the remnants of the movement still present in downtown Portland are doing more harm than good at this point.'

Officer John Rasmussen, one of the officers whose vehicle was damaged Tuesday, agrees.

'Whatever message the movement began with is now plagued with crime and filth,' he said. 'And the stench…'

Outbreaks of head and body lice, scabies, even parvovirus have been reported at the camps, in addition to rats.

Rasmussen said he talked to Fuller before Portland police arrested the man. While Fuller first denied damaging the vehicle, Rasmussen said Fuller told him that the city of Portland would pay for the damage.

When Rasmussen pointed out the vehicle is a Gresham police car, not a Portland one, Fuller reportedly said, 'Well, the taxpayers will pay.'

'So, I will be paying for the damage that I did not cause?' Rasmussen replied.

With that, the man got a little flustered.

'I'm sorry, I'm just upset with civil government,' Fuller reportedly said, railing against Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who has supported the movement until 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, when he issued an eviction notice effective at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 13.

'But I'm from the city of Gresham!' Rasmussen said.

With that, Portland police - who'd already seized his hammer - confiscated Fuller's hatchet and box cutter, which he'd be using to create a shelter out of wood pallets at Terry Schrunk Plaza.

Police targeted since start

This isn't the first time protesters have damaged police vehicles since setting up the camp nearly five weeks ago. Within days of the movement's start, vandals spray-painted graffiti on marked Portland Police Bureau patrol cars. But Tuesday's incident is the first time police from other jurisdictions have been targeted, Simpson said.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 9, Portland police estimated the bureau has spent $319,000 on overtime due to the movement.

Simpson said the number doesn't include the cost of officers patrolling the area during their regular 40-hour workweeks or the cost of police responding to crime associated with the occupation.

Crime statistics released Tuesday for the three patrol districts around the Occupy Portland encampments show that crime is up 18 percent compared to the same time last year. Since the movement began on Oct. 6, police have responded to crimes ranging from sexual assaults to drug overdoses at the encampment.

The occupation also is estimated to have caused $19,000 worth of damage to parks where protesters are camping - a dollar amount Simpson said is nowhere near accurate.

'I mean, $19,000 wouldn't get me a new front lawn, and I have a small yard,' he said. 'Whatever the total cost is, it will be a very substantial amount of money.'

As for attempts by Gresham's mayor and police chief to hold the movement financially responsible, Rasmussen said, 'I applaud their courage and willingness to stand up for the citizens of Gresham.'

So does local attorney and state Rep. Matt Wand, R-Troutdale.

'Well done!' Wand posted on his Facebook page, before offering a bit of free legal advice. 'If they don't pay, may I suggest billing Portland? Since Portland allowed Occupy to violate clear ordinances, it seems to me it may be concerted action and thus both parties bear equal responsibility.'