Marion County Courthouse (Anna CK Smith/Salem Reporter)

Blatant racism often lives in the shadows of the internet, but on Tuesday Marion County’s top cop witnessed it in broad daylight outside of a Salem coffee shop.

Three Latino guys were sitting at IKE Box when a man allegedly walked up, spit on one and used a derogatory term before flipping them off and walking away.

Rather than retaliate, the targeted group looked to the man in uniform sitting nearby.

It was Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast, who called 911 to report the incident to Salem Police while the oldest of the group followed the alleged perpetrator at a safe distance until police took over. Kast estimated the oldest victim was in his 20s and the others were teenagers.

“In my 28 years in law enforcement, I have seen things that are race-related or disrespectful, but I can’t think of anything like this,” Kast told Salem Reporter the next day.

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When police questioned the man, 26-year-old Joshua Anderson-Justis, allegedly told police that he didn’t like Latinos. He was arrested and on Wednesday, he was arraigned on misdemeanor charges of harassment and intimidation. According to court documents, Anderson-Justis spit on the victim because of the victim’s race.

Kast was at the Cottage Street coffee shop with Patrick Sieng and Jennifer Martin, two members of his election campaign team. Sieng, his campaign manager, posted about it on Facebook. Less than a day later, it had almost 400 likes, 99 comments and 36 shares.

“Fortunately, one of the people I was meeting with was Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast who immediately jumped into action,” Sieng wrote in the Facebook post. “The first thing he did was console the victims. Then he got on the phone with Salem PD to track down the individual who was found a few minutes later and the individual confessed he ‘doesn’t like Hispanics.’”

Sieng said a lot of people were surprised that something like this could happen in the Salem area.

“I think it’s good for people to be aware that this stuff does happen and we need to come together to help address it,” Sieng said.

Kast found the action shocking.

“I can’t imagine spitting on someone or getting spit on,” he said. “It’s probably one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever discussed.”

Kast found the victims’ restraint remarkable.

“I was impressed with their maturity,” he said.

Reporter Aubrey Wieber: [email protected], 503-575-1251

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