PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After two teenagers in Southeast Portland’s Buckman neighborhood were yelled at and spit on by a stranger in December. Police say it was likely a bias crime.
The mother of the teens, Kanika Callier, who was also targeted by the unidentified man at one point during the incident, told KOIN 6 News she was still shaken up by it, having a hard time sleeping, and wants him off the streets.
"He's still free and walking around," Callier said. "Who else's family is now at stake?"
On Dec. 29, a 16-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother were walking on East Burnside and Southeast 24th Avenue when a man began yelling racial slurs and following the girl when she tried to walk away from him.
The Callier said her daughter had called her six times and texted twice because she was scared. When Callier arrived, she said the man “threw a big brown liquid cup all over myself and kids.”
"He spit on me and told me he hates our kind," the daughter, who wished to remain anonymous, told KOIN 6 News.
Callier added that her daughter said during one of the calls that the man called her "the n-word" and "wants me to die." The mother left work immediately and told her two children to get into the Starbucks.
Callier recalled how she could "hear the fear" of her children over the phone.
"I knew at this time it was really literally maybe a life or death situation," she said.
When Callier arrived, the man was sitting at the bus stop. She said her kids came to her. That's when she turned around and saw the man charging towards them. She tried to shield her kids.
This is when the man threw the brown liquid on all three of them, Callier said, and she got into a fight with the man.
"I was in a defense mode protecting my kid," she said.
She could be seen in a video captured at that moment telling the man, "Don't you ever spit on my kids again and throw anything at me." She then remarked as he was walking away "Don't you ever come over here again."
When Portland police showed up around 2:24 p.m., an officer tried looking for the suspect who had walked off. The other officer made sure no one was injured, but found that the two teens had been targeted based on the “suspect’s perception of the victims’ race.”
However, the man was never found. Officials say he was a 40- or 50-year-old white man about 5 feet 10 inches tall who is skinny, balding and had sandy blonde hair with a beard. At the time of the incident, he wore a black winter coat, blue jeans, and black shoes.
Callier said she understands there are homeless people with problems. But she thinks something needs to be done to protect people from harm.
"I get that we're trying to be an area to support the homeless and give them a sanctuary but you got to also have a plan because, where things are, it is really a place of safety as a concern for a lot of people, even our children now."
New data released by PPB shows reports of bias crimes in the city skyrocketed last year, doubling to more than 100 reported crimes from the year before.
Police ask anyone with information about this man to contact firstname.lastname@example.org attn: Bias Crimes Unit and reference Case No. 23-334800.
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.