PORTLAND, Ore. — Officials in Portland, Oregon are investigating a police officer who failed to take action against a man who attacked six Christians with a cleansing agent earlier this month while pronouncing them all “scum.”
As previously reported, the incident took place on August 12 outside of the Portland Planned Parenthood facility as over 20 Christians participated in a pro-life outreach that was a part of the Biblical Church Evangelism Conference hosted by Beaverton Grace Bible Church and organized by its pastor, Chuck O’Neal.
As they stood on the public sidewalk to proclaim the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching and the holding of signs, a man who is believed to have brought a woman to the facility began yelling at the Christians and then blanketed half of dozen of them with scouring powder.
“Somewhere he got ahold of a very large canister of Comet and then he came around the building and went to one of our ladies and pronounced her ‘scum’ and doused her with this can of Comet head to toe,” O’Neal told Christian News Network. “He continued down the line … and he said, ‘And you, and you, and you ,’ pronouncing them all scum and shaking out Comet on each one.”
When O’Neal was told by other participants what was taking place, he went to talk to the man, but was likewise blanketed with scouring powder.
“I approached the man, and he proceeded to douse me with the Comet as well, getting it in my eyes and on my clothes,” he recalled. “I was warning him that this was assault … and calling upon him to stop and to repent and turn to Christ.”
A police patrol vehicle was parked nearby as the incident took place, and former Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Tony Miano began calling to the officer to arrest the man. However, Miano and O’Neal state that the officer, Gene Gillock, rather protected the man shaking the cleanser on the Christians.
“As I’m shouting to him, ‘We want this man arrested,’ he’s telling us to stay back and not to disrupt what he’s doing, while he’s letting the assailant [be] who just assaulted six Christians with a white powder,” Miano explained. “He’s treating the guy who assaulted six of our friends as if they had been doing something wrong.”
The evangelists state that instead of handcuffing the man, Gillock pulled up slowly and told the man to keep walking down the street. Moments later, he had the man sit in the back of his car as they talked. The officer then drove away with the passenger door still open as the man sat inside.
Miano said that Gillock never checked on the condition of the Christians.
“There were several people doused in this caustic cleanser, people complaining about their eyes burning, and he didn’t stop to see if anyone needed aid,” he stated. “He did nothing to check on the condition of the victims, but he did everything to accommodate the man who viciously, angrily assaulted six Christians peacefully exercising their right to free speech and exercising their deeply held religious beliefs.”
“The officer had no idea whether anyone had received a full douse to the face, eyes, mouth,” O’Neal agreed. “He seemed to be more concerned about the safety of the perpetrator than the safety and care of the victims.”
O’Neal and Miano said that they don’t believe the man was taken to jail but rather escorted home. They called 911 to request that police return and take a criminal complaint.
Now, O’Neal says that the City of Portland is investigating how Gillock handled the matter. He told Christian News Network that he recently received a call from an investigator who stated that the city had received a number of complaints from those who had learned of the situation.
“The investigator’s concerns centered around the fact the officer was slow to react, that the officer had not utilized the tools at hand … to call the perpetrator to cease his attack, to communicate even with just the sirens that there was police presence there and it would be wise to cease his assault,” O’Neal stated.
“The investigator seemed to agree that this was an infraction of several police policies [and] that he would be further investigating, seeking to interview the other witnesses and victims of the assault,” he said.
While a friend of Gillock’s, who identifies simply as Zach, asserts that the Christians were being “antagonistic” outside of the facility, O’Neal says that the video footage (posted below) shows otherwise—that they were preaching the word of God and calling men and women to repentance and faith in Christ.
“I must address those that are graciously, or not so graciously, claiming that it is un-gracious and ineffective to confront people in their sin and call them to repentance and faith in Christ,” O’Neal wrote online following the original Christian News Network report. “Start asking: ‘What did Jesus do?’ Then read your Bible and you’ll find that He confronted lost sinners about their sins and called them to repentance and faith.”
He said that two babies had been rescued from abortion that day because of the Christians who reached out to them in love and gave them “blessing bags” for the ride home.
O’Neal further notes that he does not wish any harm to Gillock—only that errors will be recognized and that matters will be handled properly in the future as the Portland Police Department has otherwise been supportive of the free speech rights of Christians.
“I don’t want Officer Gillock disciplined in any way that harms or ends his career,” he said, “but I want him to see how grievously he has erred and to take corrective action both personally and in the police department, to say, ‘This was mishandled.'”