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Portland residents targeted by man lobbing objects at unsuspecting drivers slam slap on wrist for suspect

A Portland, Oregon, homeless man accused of throwing objects at car windows of unsuspecting drivers has left residents of the city concerned and, now, questioning why the suspect was only issued a citation and not arrested. 

“He looks at me, braces himself on his bike, and takes pretty careful aim,” Portland man Steve Magnuson told The Oregonian of a recent attack. “Then he smashes the object into my windshield, which pounds through the whole car.”

Magnuson’s car was attacked before 5 p.m. on Sept. 10 by a suspect who was riding a bike, The Oregonian reported. Magnuson, who was running errands at the time, video recorded the incident, which helped police identify the suspect as 51-year-old Robert Casey McClatchey.

Magnuson said he even looked for McClatchey himself after his windshield was shattered by what appeared to be a rock, searching multiple homeless encampments before spotting the suspect’s bike and alerting police. 

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“I go home and I’m pretty jazzed, because I have the video of the person and their location,” he said.

Police issued McClatchey a $100 citation for criminal mischief over the incident, even though criminal mischief is a bookable offense that can lead to jail time, local outlets reported. 

“It seems like he’s just going up to the line of what the police will arrest him for. He’s playing the system like Miles Davis,” Magnuson told The Oregonian. 

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Similar reports of unsuspecting drivers being targeted by a man on the southeast side of the city have also surfaced. 

One woman said that on Aug. 26, as she was driving home from work at 1 a.m., she saw a car near a railroad track and slowed down to make sure no one needed help. A man then reportedly jumped out of the darkness and began screaming at her before throwing a rock at her window. 

“He just jumped out of the dark,” Tracy Salsbury said. “I ducked because glass was flying everywhere, and when I looked in my side mirror I could see that bike with the trailer.”

It is unclear if McClatchey is tied to the reported attack on Salsbury. Both Magnuson and Salsbury say the suspect had a bike with a trailer attached to the back. 

McClatchey has a lengthy rap sheet going back years. He was charged with second-degree criminal mischief just last year after he allegedly stepped in front of a row of tents in the city, and lobbed an object at a man’s car that bounced from the hood to the windshield, The Oregonian reported, citing court documents. 

“I [expletive] up,” McClatchey told officers after the 2021 incident, according to an affidavit. 

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He was also issued a citation in that case. 

“Do we have to wait until whatever he threw hit somebody in the head?” Salsbury asked, according to KOIN. “You think he’s going to care he got cited? That got tossed on the ground while he was picking up rocks. Who rides around with rocks? People that are going to do that.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Portland Police inquiring why McClatchey was issued a citation instead of being arrested, but did not immediately receive a response Monday morning. 

The Portland Police Bureau told KOIN that a criminal citation is the equivalent of an arrest, and he could face a warrant for his arrest if he doesn’t make a mandatory court appearance for the citation. 

“A criminal citation is equivalent to an arrest, just without the booking into jail. He is given a court date that is mandatory. If he does not show, a judge can issue a warrant for his arrest. This is different from a traffic violation citation, which is just a fine, and cannot result in jail or a warrant,” PPB told KOIN. 

Portland police spokesperson Derek Carmon told The Oregonian that McClatchey had been arrested earlier this year for a separate incident, and had also received two other citations. 

“We’re doing our part to try and keep people accountable,” Carmon told the outlet, but could not explain why McClatchey was issued the most recent citation instead of being arrested. 

Salsbury lamented the recent increase in crimes and drug use in the city, saying it “feels like lawlessness.”

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Crime in Portland has skyrocketed over the last few years, with a recent study finding violent crime in the city drastically rose over the last three years, most precipitously in 2020, when the city saw near-nightly protests and riots over the death of George Floyd. 

The city saw a 58% increase in homicides in 2020 compared to the year prior, and 2021 notched a 54% increase in homicides compared to the already violent and bloody 2020. The number of homicides in 2021 was a 238% increase from numbers recorded in 2018. 

Police in the city have decried how their department is understaffed, and cited the issue for why the department is sometimes slow to respond to 911 calls. 

Police departments across the country have been plagued with staffing issues in recent years. Many law enforcement experts have pointed to the anti-police rhetoric that swept the nation in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter and defund the police protests and riots as reasons why cops have left the force and more aren’t joining. 

“It feels like just one more impossible problem on top of a pile of several others,” Magnuson told The Oregonian of police staffing. “Maybe that’s just the direction we’re going. Maybe we’ll look back on this and think, ‘Wow, we had it really good.’”

Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McClatchey being issued a citation instead of being arrested. 

Wheeler’s office did tell the Oregonian that vehicle vandalism in the city is “highly concerning.”

“The mayor will continue to work closely with the Portland Police Bureau to help ensure that those responsible for these crimes – that have the potential to cause serious injury – are held accountable,” Wheeler spokesman Cody Bowman told the outlet.

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