On Wednesday, August 12, 2015, a group of Christians (of which I was a part) went to the Planned Parenthood at 3231 SE 50th Street, Portland, OR. We went to the location as part of an evangelistic outreach, which was organized and led by Pastor Chuck O’Neal, of Beaverton Grace Bible Church. The outreach was part of the third annual Biblical Church Evangelism Conference, which is also hosted by Beaverton Grace Bible Church.
Our group of more than 20 Christians positioned ourselves on the public sidewalks around the abortuary. Some of the men preached the law and the gospel, while pleading with men and women not to murder their children by way of abortion. The rest of the group held signs and interacted with passers-by.
As I made my way south from the driveway of Planned Parenthood, on 50th Avenue, toward Franklin Street, I saw a man, who appeared very agitated, walking westbound through the intersection of 50th Avenue and Franklin Street. He had a large green canister in his right hand. He began to yell at members of our group who were standing on the northwest corner of 50th Avenue and Franklin Street.
As the man continued to yell, he shook the canister at the people on the corner, causing a white powder to fill the air and land on the people. I heard him call the people “scum of the earth,” as he doused them with the powder, which I later determined was a can of Comet Cleanser.
The man continued to shake the canister and hurl abuse at the people on the corner. As he was doing this, Portland Police officer Gene Gillock (#28069) turned onto northbound 50th Avenue, from westbound Franklin Street. The officer saw the man assault the people on the corner. The man began to walk northbound on 50th Avenue, still carrying the can of Comet. I did not try to detain the man because I felt confident the officer would get out of his car and detain/arrest the man for a crime (an assault, with multiple victims) that occurred in his presence.
The officer did not get out of his car. He simply drove up alongside the man and, through the open front passenger window of his patrol car, told the man to move on to the sidewalk and to continue to walk down the street. I yelled at the man to drop the can of Comet. He was walking toward another group of our people and I was concerned he was going to douse them with the Comet.
What happened next shocked me.
Officer Gillock still did not get out of his car. He slowly drove down the street yelling at us to stay back, while allowing the suspect to continue to walk down the street. I yelled at the officer, multiple times, that we wanted the man placed under arrest for assault.
Officer Gillock made a right turn from northbound 50th Avenue to eastbound Kelly Street. Officer Gillick treated the suspect as if he was the victim. He allowed the suspect to climb into the back seat of his patrol car and hold the door ajar so he wouldn’t be locked in the back seat.
Officer Gillock’s handling of the assault suspect was an officer safety nightmare. Such apathy leads to the injury and death of police officers every year. I am very glad Officer Gillock was not assaulted and injured by the suspect.
The officer continued eastbound on Kelly Street, and made a left turn onto northbound 51st Avenue. Officer Gillock stopped about halfway down the block, where he and the suspect got out of the patrol car and talked for a short time at the rear of the vehicle.
Officer Gillock looked in our direction. Bobby McCreery and I were between 1/8 and 1/4 mile away. When Officer Gillock saw us, he and the suspect got back into the patrol car and Officer Gillock drove northbound on 51st Street, and out of sight.
After 10-15 minutes, Officer Gillock returned to the Planned Parenthood. The suspect was no longer in the back seat of his patrol car. Officer Gillock had simply let him go. Even though Officer Gillock witnessed the assault, even though Officer Gillock knew we wanted the man arrested for assault, Officer Gillock let him go.
Officer Gillock was now assisted by Officer Ballew. Together they interviewed those who had been assaulted. They did not interview any of the witnesses, besides Pastor Chuck O’Neal. They didn’t even bother to get the contact information for the multiple witnesses at the scene so that investigators could contact them later.
It appears that the officers didn’t believe a thorough investigation was warranted in this case.
As the officers were leaving, Sye Ten Bruggencate and I asked Officer Gillock if we could ask him a few questions. He ignored us. As He opened the driver’s door of his patrol car, I asked him for his name and badge number. “Charles (Pastor O’Neal) has it,” was his only response.
He closed the door of his patrol car and drove away. I was struck by the similarity between the way Officer Gillock drove away and how many of the cowardly men who drop women off at abortuaries drive away.
What took place outside of the Southeast Portland Planned Parenthood was a hate crime. The man assaulted my friends because they were expressing their deeply held religious convictions. He assaulted them for daring to publicly practice their faith in Jesus Christ by proclaiming gospel truth and the truth about abortion, with their voices and with signs.
Now, imagine this.
Imagine, for just a moment, if things happened differently. What if we Christians had gone to Planned Parenthood armed with cans of Comet? What if we doused women walking into and out of Planned Parenthood with Comet? And what if Officer Gillock had seen us doing it?
Needless to say, we would never do that.
Yes, I am about to speculate as to what Officer Gillock would do. But does anyone reading this really think he would have treated the situation the same way? Does anyone really believe Officer Gillock would have given us a lift to another part of the neighborhood, dusted us off, and sent us on our way?
Of course not!
Officer Gillock would have arrested us (AND RIGHTLY SO!). He would have done his duty. We would have been handcuffed. We would have been put in the back seat of patrol cars (without the doors being left open for our comfort and convenience). We would have been driven to the police station, and booked for assault. Portland Police would have undoubtedly reported the incident to the press in order to assure the community that a woman seeking an abortion in their city would be protected in their efforts to murder their children.
And how would the media have handle the situation?
The media would have been all over it. The story would have been reported by every local and national news outlet, with a headline like this:
RADICALIZED CHRISTIANS ASSAULT INNOCENT WOMEN
SEEKING MEDICAL CARE AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD
What happened today outside the Planned Parenthood in Southeast Portland was a crime. It was a hate crime.
While Officer Gillock’s actions (and inaction) were not criminal, they certainly were unprofessional and, I believe, showed a sinful bias against what we were trying to accomplish at Planned Parenthood.
Each of us who were at Planned Parenthood knew the job was dangerous when we took it. Having been in front of abortuaries for a few years now, and having been assaulted a number of times, what the man did to my friends wasn’t shocking. It was upsetting, but it wasn’t shocking. All of us who were out there today know that the world will hate us because the world hates our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (John 15:18).
Also, in a way that only Christians can understand, we rejoiced at what happened.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The opposition was so intense today, we knew the Spirit of God was working in a powerful way.
Yet, part of me (the retired deputy sheriff part) was very disappointed. Every law enforcement professional has a bad day, now and again. I know I did. Officers don’t always get it right. I know I didn’t.
In spite of Officer Gillock’s poor performance and lack of professionalism, I’m confident that he is not an accurate representation of the Portland Police Department. I am confident that there are many fine men and women in uniform, in Portland, who represent their department and serve their city well. Officer Gillock’s behavior today did nothing to diminish my love for my law enforcement family, including my law enforcement family in the City of Portland, OR.
However, in conjunction with the criminal investigation, I hope the Portland Police Department investigates Officer Gillock’s conduct. I hope as a result of that internal investigation Officer Gillock will receive whatever discipline and remedial training necessary to ensure that what happened today will never happen again–not only for the protection of citizens from violent criminals, but also for Officer Gillock’s personal safety as he works the streets.
Lastly, I hope the Portland Police Department will investigate what happened today with the same vim and vigor they would investigated the situation had we Christians been the suspects. I hope they will prosecute the man who assaulted my friends to the full extent of the law, as they no doubt would had we thrown a caustic chemical on someone entering or exiting Planned Parenthood.
I will wait and see. The ball is in your court Portland Police Department. Don’t dribble it off your foot.
PS. I also hope the man who assaulted my friends will come to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He is in my prayers.