PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland police are looking for a man accused of spraying three young boys with bear spray and yelling a racial slur while riding by on a bicycle.
The attack happened Tuesday night, near Northeast Killingsworth Street and 9th Avenue, just after 9 p.m., according to Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson.
The grandmother and mother of the boys, ages 12, 11 and 7, told police they were getting into a car when the suspect rode by on his bike. The man turned around, rode back by the car and sprayed the boys while yelling a racial epithet.
The family is African-American.
“The grandmother told us she heard a racial slur being uttered by him as he sprayed or after he sprayed, and then (he) rode away,” Simpson said.
On Friday, the grandmother spoke with KGW, but did not want to be identified. "They were screaming bloody murder," she says. "They ran into the trees, they ran into each other, they couldn't see. They were screaming, it was awful."
She want on to say, "It wasn't pepper spray. It was something they spray on bears. My daughter was slightly blind, and my grandkids couldn't see." She says even the first-responders were slightly overcome by the strength of the spray, as they worked to help the family.
Police are investigating the incident as a bias crime, which they define as a crime targeting a victim based on the suspect’s perception of the victim's race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. Learn more about bias crimes
The grandmother said she took the 12-year old boy to the hospital.
The family described the suspect as a white or Hispanic man who was in his mid-20s, 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. The man was wearing black spandex-style bicycle clothes and a grey and black helmet.
The suspect was riding a road bike with a white box on the back. The boys' mother found the white box in the neighborhood and turned it over to police. It had tools inside and did not contain any items that could help identify the man.
The incident has enraged the neighborhood, and the grandmother has a message for the man.
"Either he turn himself in, or I'm thinking one day, he will do this to the wrong person. And it's not going to be me or my grandkids again. The wrong person is going to get him for that," she said.
She says as the family recovers, the incident has been really hard on her 11-year old grandson, who has special needs, and doesn't understand what happened. She says she has always tried to teach her kids and grandkids to do the right thing.
Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call Detective Jeff Sharp at 503-823-9773, or email him at email@example.com.
Neighbors are raising money for the family's medical expenses through an online fundraiser.