Portland Man Who Shouted Slurs and Shoved Gay Men Is First Person Convicted Under Oregon’s New Bias Crime Law

Don Kirchhoff approached two men outside of a bakery last month and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at the victims. As the two men tried to walk away, Kirchhoff pursued the men and punched one of them.

Jamison Square on Northwest 10th Avenue. (Another Believer / Wikimedia Commons)

A man has been convicted under Oregon's new bias crime law.

Don Kirchhoff, 50, is the first person to be prosecuted under the new law in Multnomah County, which broadens the definition of what constitutes a hate crime and rebrands the charge of "intimidation" to "bias crime."

Under the expanded definition, bias crimes now include crimes committed because of gender identity discrimination. Prior the new law, a crime could only be deemed a felony bias crime if two or more assailants were involved. Under the new iteration of the law, only one assailant has to be involved to render it a bias crime in certain cases.

Last month, Kirchhoff approached two gay men sitting on a bench outside of a bakery in Northwest Portland and started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at the two friends. One of the men was black.

When one of the men stood up to try and quell Kirchoff's anger, and the second man tried to de-escalate the situation by getting in between Kirchhoff and his friend. Kirchhoff then shoved the man who intervened into a brick wall, resulting in an injury to the victim's head and neck.

When the two men started to walk away, Kirchhoff followed them and physically tugged at one of the men's shirts. He then punched the man.

Though Kirchhoff originally admitted to starting the physical confrontation and using slurs according to court documents, he appeared in court on Oct.  18 and changed his plea, pleading guilty to one count of bias crime in the first degree.

Kirchhoff faces 15 days in jail and 36 months probation. He also will undergo a mental health evaluation and cannot be within 500 feet of Lovejoy Bakers, where the bias crime took place.

"This is a sentence that provides for probation at this time but still contemplates the possibility of Mr. Kirchhoff receiving a jail sentence if the court determines he is ever in violation of his probation," said BJ Park, the Deputy District Attorney for the county who litigated the case.

This isn't Kirchhoff's first tussle with violent attacks.

He was also convicted on one count of felony strangulation in a domestic abuse case, which he pleaded guilty to. According to a press release by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, on June 30 police reported to a domestic violence call involving Kirchhoff and his long-term partner.

"Kirchhoff reportedly became upset when the victim changed the TV channel and assaulted the woman," the release reads.

The case is reminiscent of another encounter that occurred in August of this year, when 58-year old Robert Oden physically assaulted and yelled racial and homophobic slurs at three Latino men who were leaving a gay bar in Old Town.

Oden has been charged with two counts of bias crime in the second degree, one count of bias crime in the first degree, and fourth degree felony assault.

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