Tyrone Jones was assaulted at the Oregon State Capitol in August and continues to feel pain from his injuries. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
As the summer rally in front of the Capitol steps turned volatile, Tyrone Jones moved to get his 24-year-old son out of harm’s way.
Before he could, a man swung at the back of his son’s head and grabbed him from behind near a marble statue of a covered wagon at the Capitol.
The attack, captured on a video obtained by Salem Reporter, was one of nearly a dozen that took place on Aug. 15.
As the assaults unfolded, Oregon State Police troopers watched from inside the Capitol but made no move to intervene, Jones said in a recent interview. Despite video evidence, witnesses coming forward, and at least one suspect with a violent criminal history, no one has been arrested or charged in the attacks.
The lack of enforcement so far stands in contrast to how police have responded to other Salem protests. On Sept. 7, the state police arrested two men for assault when right-wing protesters chased and attacked racial justice demonstrators. Two months later, police arrested two men at a right-wing rally for assault and two people for disorderly conduct for stepping into the street during a left-wing demonstration.
Those assaulted in August, who are mostly Black, wonder why they’re enduring the physical and emotional pain of their injuries while their attackers go free and police exhibit what they see as indifference.
An analysis by Salem Reporter relying on video footage, court records and interviews with victims resulted in an alarming account of 10 people being assaulted at the Capitol with police watching from inside the building.
Responding to written questions from Salem Reporter, Capt. Tim Fox, OSP’s top spokesman, said his agency does its best to police such events.
“Our goal is for all involved to allow their voices / First Amendment rights to be heard in the safest possible environment. Policing in large opposing crowds is difficult to say the least. Many times arrests cannot be made immediately and investigations are conducted. These investigations take time. Investigations also require the victims of possible crimes to report them,” he wrote.
Five people said they reported their assaults to Oregon State Police.
Fox didn’t answer how many troopers were at the Capitol during the August event, where they were located or what directives they were given on responding to possible criminal conduct.
Fox said the agency has completed its investigations and turned the results over to Marion County District Attorney Paige Clarkson to consider whether charges should be filed.
“As you are aware investigations take time and OSP has had a busy several months with numerous protests at the Capitol and Portland,” he wrote.
Fox told South Salem High School’s student newspaper, the Clypian, that OSP didn’t respond and stayed inside the Capitol building because the crowd was policing itself and the assaults were over quickly.
“We had minimal staff available and there were about 150-200 people [on the steps]….We assess each event and have to make operations decisions based on the safety of all,” Fox told the Clypian.
Salem becomes scene of clashes
Salem has been the scene of unprecedented protests this year as demonstrators with the Black Lives Matter movement clash with right-wing groups.
The Capitol has often served as the backdrop for rallies which have sometimes turned violent. In recent months, armed militia groups like the Proud Boys, whose members often travel from outside Salem, have become a regular presence, prompting concern from some city council members and leaders about armed men roaming city streets and parks.
On Aug. 15, two competing events were scheduled - one to protest Covid restrictions and demand that Oregon “reopen” and the other to support Black Lives Matter. Both were to be in front of the Capitol, on opposite sides of the entry.
Among those in the crowd was Corey Wyatt, 36, no stranger to violence and who came armed with a buck knife, according to video footage of the event.
Wyatt, a mixed martial arts fighter, has a long criminal history in Oregon and has spent much of his adult life in jail or prison, state and federal court records show.
In 2003, he pulled a knife on a man in a robbery in Benton County that resulted in a 70-month sentence. He later assaulted a guard while he was an inmate at Snake River Correctional Institution.
After his release on those charges, Wyatt was implicated in a white supremacist killing spree involving David "Joey" Pedersen, who told police he planned to massacre Jews in the Pacific Northwest and spark a revolution. Pedersen and his girlfriend left four bodies in their wake, murdering a teenager because they believed he had a Jewish name and a Black man in California.
Court records show Wyatt provided Pederson with a 9mm Luger pistol and helped him get rid of a stolen vehicle following a murder in Oregon.
Wyatt ultimately pleaded guilty to unlawful transfer of a firearm to a known felon and being an accessory to the interstate transportation of a stolen motor vehicle. In July 2014, a judge sentenced him to about seven years in prison, court documents show. He was released in April 2020.
A week after the Salem protest, Wyatt attended a Portland demonstration on Aug. 22. A federal lawsuit filed by counter-protesters and a photojournalist claims Wyatt arrived wearing a tactical helmet and armed with mace, a Bowie knife and batons. The suit accuses Wyatt and other right-wing demonstrators of instigating fights and macing counter-protesters.
Wyatt responded to the suit saying he had "no knowledge of anything being described in the complaint" and said he intended to countersue for defamation and emotional distress, court documents show.
Video from the Salem rally in August shows Wyatt kicking one demonstrator and sending them down the Capitol steps. That was later followed by an attack on Jayden Jones.
Salem Reporter tried to reach Wyatt through his attorney, federal public defender Kimberly-Claire Elizabeth Seymour. She didn’t respond to voicemail messages or emails seeking comment as of Thursday.
Thinking everything would be fine
Jones was working at his Dallas home that August Saturday when his son told him that members of the local Black Lives Matter movement were being pushed down the Capitol stairs and needed help.
Jones had supported the Black Lives Matter movement, in part because he intended to open a Black-owned bank that serves the underprivileged. Jones has lived in Salem on and off since 1988. He owns a business in Salem, but spent most of his life working as a nightclub bouncer.
He hopped on his motorcycle, heading for Salem and expecting the usual loud arguments and taunts but nothing worse.
“I was just thinking we would all just be sitting there, and everything would be fine,” Jones said.
But matters had already escalated beyond shouting.
Video shows Jones getting punched in the neck.
A melee unfolds
By the time the two men from Dallas arrived, Wyatt kicked a Black man in the chest, sending him down the Capitol steps, according to video provided to Salem Reporter.
Jones said he was sitting on the steps when a woman who appeared to be part of the rally to reopen the state approached.
“You think all your (expletive) lives matter to us,” she said in Jones’ recounting of the scene.
Jones couldn’t let the slur pass.
“Ma’am, why don’t you just stay on your side and leave us alone?” he said.
Another man from the rally rushed towards Jones, telling him to show some respect. And then men wearing The American Patriot Society T-shirts surrounded Jones.
Jones placed his motorcycle helmet on the ground, and then stood with his hands behind his back, resisting the impulse to defend himself.
“I was doing my best to not look like the aggressor,” the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Jones said.
One man bumped Jones with his belly and then shoved him.
Jones pushed the man away and backed towards the crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators. As he did, another man came up from behind, punching Jones’ throat and chest.
His son tried to intervene but Wyatt pushed him against a truck, swinging at him. The 6-foot-5 Jayden Jones fell, and Wyatt landed a blow to his back, Jones said.
Tyrone Jones pulled Wyatt off his son, put him into a headlock, asking, “Are you done?”
Wyatt said “yes.”
Jones let loose of Wyatt, who then slugged Jones in the face, knocking him to the pavement.
Meantime, two local women were recovering from a short but violent confrontation moments earlier on the Capitol steps.
Julianne Jackson came down the Capitol steps toward a friend who was screaming when a man grabbed her neck from behind and put her on the pavement.
Shea Weiner, who is white, said in an interview that she tried to get the attacker off her friend but he punched Weiner in the temple, knocking her down and sending her glasses flying.
Jackson and Weiner scrambled to their feet to help the still-screaming Hartzell. A woman grappling with Hartzell ripped her nose ring out and then dug her fingernails deeply into Weiner’s arm, Weiner said.
The assailant grabbed a weave off Hartzell, raising it in apparent triumph, shown on video footage.
All three women said they reported the assaults to the state police.
Footage shows Jones getting punched in the face. Warning: this video contains graphic language.
Jones went to the hospital the day he was assaulted because he couldn’t talk or eat and was having difficulty breathing. He said he could barely speak for the next two weeks.
Nearly four months later, the muscles in his neck get tight and he gets dizzy.
Jones reported his assault to the state police but he was told the first report was lost. A follow-up interview was taped but then police told Jones they lost the recording.
To this day, Jones doesn’t know the status of the investigation into the assault on him.
“There’s been a fierce battle in my mind with law enforcement and my perception of law enforcement. Of how they are going to respond toward me or my family and do we have the same rights no matter how hard I work, no matter what I do, will I ever have equal treatment? It’s really bothering me that I’ve seen all these assaults happening and the police haven’t responded. If I had swung back and hurt anybody how much trouble I would be in?” he said.
Wyatt, meantime, is in federal prison, awaiting a judge’s decision on whether his effort to elude police in Lane County justifies revoking his probation. A court hearing is scheduled Jan. 27.
Jackson said she followed up with state police officials, trying to understand why people who are on video assaulting people haven’t been charged with a crime. She said she provided police with her medical records and 360-degree videos of the attacks.
She said she put a group together to contact the state police and made the local NAACP, police auditors and city officials aware of the incident.
Jackson said she sees a chiropractor for treatment of her injuries from August.
The larger impact has been a sense of feeling unsafe.
“The worst part is the mental portion of it. For a few weeks I was scared to go anywhere. I didn’t want anyone to touch me,” she said.
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