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Eugene police charge man in vandalism of restaurants.

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

A 39-year-old man was arrested early Sunday in connection with vandalism at two Asian-owned restaurants, and Eugene police are investigating whether he might be involved in a series of similar incidents at other Asian-owned businesses.

Bernard Shifman was charged with two felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief and a single misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct, and taken to the Lane County Jail.

Shifman was arrested at 1:49 a.m., shortly after someone threw a rock at a large front window at the Lotus Garden restaurant on Charnelton Street, Eugene police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said.

Witnesses to the vandalism were able to provide police with a good suspect description and the direction in which he fled, McLaughlin said.

Moments later, someone notified police of a similar incident having occurred at the Jade Palace restaurant on West Seventh Avenue, McLaughlin said.

Shifman was charged in connection with that crime as well, she said.

Police are still investigating a possible motive and as yet have not charged Shipman with a hate or bias crime, she said.

Shifman is white, according to county jail records.

In recent weeks, several Asian-owned businesses have been vandalized by rocks thrown through their windows, according to the Asian/Pacific Islander Community Action Team.

Yi Shen Market had three instances of such vandalism in just one week, and multiple times over the last several months, the team said in a recent email.

Other targeted businesses have included King's Asian Market, LZ Chinese Dish, Sushi Island and Chingu Restaurant. Several of the businesses are located on or just off West 11th Avenue.

Jason Mak, a member of the action team's steering committee, said police Lt. Jen Bills informed the team early Sunday that the vandal had been caught in acts of vandalism on video, which is now being analyzed by police.

Mak said the action team is appreciative of the city and police department's efforts to address the vandalism. In addition to stepped-up patrols organized by Lt. Doug Mozan, police also pledged to send crime prevention specialists to evaluate the security at each of the affected businesses, he said.

Eugene police do not typically send an officer out on vandalism calls, but Bills directed officers to respond because of the suspicion that the vandalism may constitute a bias crime, Mak said.

Members of the action team hope to meet Tuesday with Police Chief Pete Kerns, City Manager Jon Ruiz and Mayor Kitty Piercy to discuss longer-term partnerships and solutions, he said.

Previous steps have included establishing a gofundme.com website to solicit funds for the victims, organizing nightly shifts of volunteer observers to report suspicious activity, and installing security systems and Plexiglas coverings on windows at the businesses.

Mak said the action team was created after the most recent incidents of vandalism emerged at the Yi Shen Market in late June.

"We wanted to support the targets and victims of this vandalism," he said. "For these Asian small businesses, it's like their second homes, and it's taken very personally."

Mak said it will fall to police to determine whether the vandalism was racially motivated. "But regardless of whether it is or it isn't, the impact on the community has been bad," he said. "It's created a lot of fear and concern."

On the positive side, Mak said hundreds have volunteered to help provide informal surveillance of the businesses and to support the business owners.

"That's pretty dang amazing," Mak said. "The whole Eugene community has really come together, and that alone has made people feel supported."

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_s_wright. Email jeff.wright@registerguard.com.
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Title Annotation:Crime
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 11, 2016
Words:604
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