A racially heated confrontation last month between the owner of a Southeast Portland food cart and a black patron has left the future of one of the city's more popular eateries uncertain.
On the morning of July 22, Dustin Knox, co-owner of wood-grilled chicken cart Chicken and Guns, called 911 about a man he claimed threatened him with violence and racial epithets. The customer, Kevin Raysor, later posted on Facebook a different version: that he was waiting for the cart to open when Knox accused him of being homeless and loitering.
Last week, Title Bout, the consulting agency that has been assisting the cart's planned expansion into as many as five brick-and-mortar locations, announced that Knox had been placed on leave and the agency was conducting an internal investigation.
Asked last week how this incident might affect that expansion, Jessica Williams, Title Bout's CEO, told WW, "We are still evaluating our options."
Both Raysor and Knox have declined to comment on the incident. But WW has obtained audio of Knox's 911 call.
"I've got a gentleman being violent on 12th and Hawthorne," Knox says. (Chicken and Guns is located in the Cartopia pod, along with Knox's other business, Perierra Creperie.)
In the call, he alleges Raysor went on a "racist rant," calling Knox "a cracker" and accusing Knox of using the n-word, and threatened to "kick [Knox's] ass."
Knox tells the dispatcher Raysor had begun filming him—in his original Facebook post, Raysor posted an image of Knox on his cell phone, presumably speaking to the dispatcher.
The dispatcher can be heard telling Knox that "police say it might be similar to someone they were dealing with earlier," at a location in Sellwood about an hour before, though information provided by police on that incident describes a man wearing different clothes than Raysor is described as wearing by Knox.
In an interview with Eater last week, Raysor said he'd taken the bus to Cartopia from Portland State University and decided to wait an hour for Chicken and Guns to open so he could eat before returning to campus to take his Criminal Justice final. That's when he says Knox, who was watering plants at the time, approached him. Raysor went on to say:
“[Knox] said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m just sitting here.’ He [then] said [again], ‘What are you doing here?’ I said, ‘Why? I’m waiting for the place to open.’ He said, ‘Well okay,’ and then walked off. Because I felt uncomfortable, I took out my phone and I took that picture. Then he said, ‘Okay you gotta leave.’” Raysor said Knox then started to get close. Raysor continued his account: “I said, ‘Dude, if you are going to touch me, I’m a martial arts teacher, I’m going to put on a demonstration and it’s not going to last long.’ I said ‘if you touch me, I’m going to lose it, and I’ll lose all this work I’m doing to get this Bachelor’s [degree].’” Raysor said he had no memory of using any racial slurs, other than referring to Knox as a “white guy” and a “hick.”
In a statement released by Title Bout, Knox characterized the incident as a "misunderstanding," apologized to Raysor, his customers and employees, and said he was taking "full responsibility for [his] role in the situation.
"I understand that I have work to do in managing how I respond to conflict," he said. "I'm absolutely committed to that work."
Title Bout did not immediately respond to a request for an update on their investigation.
Read the full transcript of the 911 call below:
Dustin Knox: Hello?
Dispatcher: This is 911.
Knox: I've got a gentleman being violent on 12th and Hawthorne.
Dispatcher: Is he in a business or on the street there?
Knox: He was in the business, now he's on the street. He's yelling racist…rant.
Dispatcher: Does he have any weapons?
Knox: Not that I can see, he's got a backpack. I don't think he's got any weapons. He just said he was going to kick my ass.
Dispatcher: OK, just stay away from him.
Knox: I am. I'm trying to work.
Dispatcher: What are you doing there? What kind of job?
Knox: I own a bunch of businesses. I'm just watering plants at the moment.
Dispatcher: OK, yeah, sure. But you didn't see any specific weapons?
Knox: No, I can't see weapons.
Dispatcher: Let's get a description of him. Is he white, black, Asian?
Knox: He is a black gentleman wearing blue jeans and a kind of khaki colored shirt.
Dispatcher: What color hair or hat?
Knox: No, he's balding and grey.
Dispatcher: How old would you say he is?
Knox: Let's say 53.
Dispatcher: How tall?
Dispatcher: Thin, medium, heavy build?
Knox: He's a gangly dude.
Dispatcher: And you say he has a backpack?
Knox: Yeah, he's got a backpack.
Dispatcher: What color is it?
Knox: Black and grey.
Dispatcher: And what's your name?
Dispatcher: Last name?
Dispatcher: And your phone number.
Dispatcher: And is he still right there on the corner or walking around?
Knox: He's filming me. He's trying to egg me on.
Dispatcher: Don't encourage him at all.
Knox: I'm not.
Dispatcher: We've already let officers know what's going on. Is he more on Hawthorne or more on 12th?
Knox: More on 12th at this point.
Dispatcher: Are you able to get inside a business until police can get there?
Knox: Not really. [unclear]
Dispatcher: Do you have a vehicle you can go to?
Knox: No, I'm fine. I'm not afraid for my life, I'm just trying to defuse the situation. He called me a cracker, said I called him a n****r. All this crazy stuff.
Dispatcher: The police say it might be similar to someone they were dealing with earlier. So they have a feeling they know who it is. If anything does change, though, if he escalates and you can't get away from him, give us a call right back.
Knox: Oh no, I can take care of myself.
Dispatcher: We are letting officers know, though, so you're doing the right thing.
Knox: Thank you.