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31 December 2020

Violent right-wing extremist surrenders to OSP


 Jeremy Roberts booking mug. Marion Co. Sheriff's Office.


Screenshot of Roberts' Twitter account.


Roberts at a rally held earlier this year.


By Brad Smith

SALEM, Ore. – A right-wing extremist with a criminal past turned himself in to the Oregon State Police for his alleged role in a violent antigovernment riot at Salem Dec. 21.

According to the OSP, Jeremy Roberts, 40, Albany, Ore., turned himself in to the OSP on Dec. 27. He was booked into the Marion County Jail on the following charges:

·         Criminal Mischief

·         Disorderly Conduct

·         Assault

·         Harassment

·         Probation Violation Warrant

The arrest stems from a violent protest staged by right wing extremists on Dec. 21.

According to the OSP,  at approximately 8:30 a.m., a group of people attempted to enter and protest inside the Oregon State Capitol. The Oregon State Capitol was closed due to COVID precautions. The Oregon State Capitol had set up televisions outside of the building for people to monitor the proceedings inside. OSP troopers had checked and secured the doors to the Capitol. A door on the northwest corner of the building was opened by a person exiting the building. Several protesters entered the vestibule area.  There they were contacted by troopers and asked to leave. As troopers attempted to keep them from entering the main area of the Capitol, the altercation became physical (pushing). A protester sprayed some kind of chemical irritant (mace /OC / bear spray) into the vestibule. Troopers used inert pepper balls to keep the crowd back and Salem Police Dept. officers were able to keep the crowd contained in the vestibule.

OSP troopers and Salem police gave everyone in the vestibule several warnings to leave or they would be arrested for trespassing. At approximately 10:30 a.m., a protester again sprayed a chemical irritant at police. Police arrested Ryan Lyles for felon in possession of body armor and unlawful use of mace.  Protesters also deployed a device, which emitted smoke during the engagement.

Two people remained in the vestibule and were arrested: Ronald Vanvlack and Jerry Dyerson and charged with Criminal Trespass and Disorderly Conduct.

At approximately 1:30 p.m., the crowd again attempted to gain entry through a door on the west side of the Capitol.  The window to the door was broken, but the building was not accessed. Police arrested Jeremiah Pruitt for Criminal Mischief and Disorderly Conduct.

Roberts was also identified as a person that attempted to gain access through the west door and an attack on two reporters. He left the Capitol building and was sought after by law enforcement until he surrendered last Sunday.

According to court records, in August 2019, Roberts pleaded guilty to menacing in Marion County and was sentenced to a week in jail and two years of probation. Roberts punched a wall above the head of his girlfriend at the time, a probable cause statement reads.

Records also show that Roberts has a criminal history that includes assaulting law enforcement officers, criminal mischief, being an inmate in possession of a weapon and assaulting another inmate. His records stretch back over a few decades and there are allegations that he took part in a riot at a juvenile detention facility years ago.

The OSP is already bracing for another round of potentially violent protests that might occur over the New Year holiday.

 

 


11 December 2020

Ex-Saltshaker: "It's a sick, twisted, hateful cult'


Former member describes his time with RV Saltshakers as 'Hellish'



Gabriel Macias was 15 years old when he joined the hate group RV Saltshakers. Years later, Macias regrets his time with the group.


By Brad Smith


JACKSON CO., Ore – Gabriel Macias has regrets about his time with the Southern Oregon hate group, the RV Saltshakers – and he hopes that others will avoid the mistakes he made.

“Don’t join them. Stay the hell away from them, that’s my advice,” he said. “Just stay away from them.”

Macias is a native Oregonian, growing up in Medford and the surrounding area. His father was a “habitual criminal” and Macias was a foster child for a number of years. He’d spent a long time with a foster family who were very conservative Christians. That upbringing left an impact on him and by the time he started living with his grandmother, he was “very religious.”

However, Macias said the absence of a father figure or any strong support system bothered him.

“I guess, in a way, that’s how I fell in with the Saltshakers,” he said.

In 2015, Macias saw the Saltshakers protesting and he decided to check it out.

“It was in the fall. That’s when it happened,” he said. “I was at the Ashland High School and one day, right across the street, I saw these people – they had signs, megaphones, they were chanting. I was curious, very curious. So, I went over to talk to them.”

That’s when Macias first met Jon Clement, the Saltshakers’ leader, and Mason Goodknight of the Community Outreach Evangelism or CORE, based out of Roseburg. Both men took an interest in him.

“They were very friendly, welcoming,” he said. “They asked me a lot questions, they started talking to me about God, Jesus, things like that. They seemed like they wanted to be my friends.”

And, Macias said, that is part of the trap.

“Many in the Saltshakers, especially Clement and senior members, are predatory,” he said. “I mean, they find your weaknesses and target them, that’s how they get your guard down and get you to join. They knew I didn’t have a strong support system, they knew my father wasn’t a part of my life. Clement and Goodknight, along with the others, acted like they were more than friends, like surrogate family members.”

Macias said he wasn’t the only one targeted that way.

“There were other kids they did the same thing too,” he said. “And adults who were targeted because they didn’t have much of family themselves. They were lonely and felt a need to be wanted, liked. Saltshakers filled that void for them.”

Clement, Goodknight and others in the Saltshakers/CORE group were “aggressive,” using megaphones to scream at people and provoking others to argue. Macias watched as women walked up to a Planned Parenthood clinic and “were swarmed by Saltshakers who yelled and screamed at them.” Saltshakers would also follow women down the street, waving signs and picture of aborted fetuses in their face.

“It was all very intense and very intrusive,” he said. “Looking back at it now, it was wrong and sickening. How can you treat people like that?”

Clement has been vocal about Saltshaker tactics over the years. In interviews, he admitted that intimidation was a “valuable tool.”

“It’s how we get our message across and let others know that we’ll never back down,” he said.

To the Saltshakers, what they perceive as “God’s law” overrules actual laws.

“Rules and regulations mean nothing to them,” Macias said. “They’ll push everything to the limit, just enough to get their message across. Now, when I was with them, they never talked about doing anything violent. It was just getting in people’s faces, yelling, screaming, harassing. Things like that.”

What bothered Macias the most was how Saltshakers “weaponized their kids.”

“Parents would bring their kids to these protests and it was very disturbing,” he said. “Kids would be holding these signs and pictures, saying things they didn’t understand – it was wrong. It bordered on child abuse; I feel. And, then they exposed other kids to those awful pictures and they felt it was the right thing to do.

“It was sickening.”

Macias said he went to an SOU Raiders game and passed out religious tracts. When the Saltshakers went to the 2016 Boatnik event in Grants Pass, he was there.

“I was like the dutiful soldier,” he said. “I went along and did my duty and received the praise and attention I felt I needed. Again, that void needed to be filled and the Saltshakers did just that.”

Meantime, Macias was also dealing with another secret: Being a closeted gay teen.

“Looking back at it, that was a big thing,” he said. “I was living this double life and we know how that will eventually tear people apart. I thought I could fill this void by being with the Saltshakers and it didn’t last long. I wasn’t being myself, I was not a nice person. I lashed out at my grandmother and others close to me. I didn’t like who I was.”

A year after being with the Saltshakers, Macias said he knew things had to change.

“It was time to come out, to come clean with myself and everyone else,” he said. “I had to do it before I imploded. So, I posted everything on Facebook. It felt good but there was a backlash from the Saltshakers.”

Some Saltshakers told Macias that he needed to repent or he would “burn in hell.”

“People I thought who were my friends said that I was a horrible sinner and some even called me ‘Judas,’” he said. “See, in their view, Jesus is all about hellfire, damnation and brimstone. A vengeful wrath of judgment and it just went against everything I believed in. There’s no love or mercy. It’s all about hellfire and damnation.”

Macias eventually relocated to Eugene and “basically started over.” He then ended up in southern California and found love. Now, he and his husband have been getting through 2020 like everyone else – and are happy, despite the social upheavals of a pandemic and a volatile election year.

“We visited family in Oregon earlier this year,” he said. “All in all, life’s good. We’re getting ready for the holidays and hoping for a better 2021. I think everyone is.”

Macias heard of people taking a stand against the Saltshakers and their allies. He decided it was time to speak out.

“What they’re doing is horrible and disgusting,” he said. “It did things to me and it’s traumatized me. I’m working it out and I hope other people will hear my story, leave the group and get help. Toxic hate and bigotry are the Saltshakers’ message. It has nothing to do with love. It has nothing to with Jesus or what he taught us. The Saltshakers aren’t Christians. They’re about hate. That’s what people need to know. But I also know that you can walk away, forgive yourself and put that hate behind you. That’s what I did. Others can do it as well.”


06 December 2020

Local hate group crawls out of the cyberspace cesspool



 The local hate group RV Saltshakers ended their social media exile last month. The SS Facebook page went dark in the wake of hatemongering leader Jon Clement and failed street preacher Ryan Clark were arrested after recklessly firing shotguns from a boat last October. Grants Pass cops nicked the pair after people in nearby parks claimed birdshot flew over their heads.

As reported, Clark took a plea deal and will serve ten days in custody, either jail or house arrest. He also got  18 months unsupervised probation and had to surrender his shotgun. Clement is in court on Dec. 14.

Clark and convicted child abuser Trevor Emptage will, no doubt, continue to harass innocent people and spread the Saltshakers' message of hate.

It's a shame that Anonymous or other hacktivists haven't taken action.

Yet.


Hate group member in court, pleads no contest on weapons charge


 
Ryan Clark, member of the hate group RV Salt Shakers, was in court last week on weapons charges.

By Brad Smith

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Ryan Clark, a supposed minister and member of the hate group known as the RV Salt Shakers, pleaded no contest to weapons charges last week.

According to records, Clark, 43, appeared in court on Dec. 2. and made his plea on the charges of unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to ten days in custody – which could be served either at home or in jail – and placed on 18 months unsupervised probation. He also had to surrender his shotgun. In a plea agreement, additional charges of reckless endangerment were dismissed.

Clark and Jon Clement, 61, were arrested on Oct. 26 by Grants Pass police after the pair were allegedly shooting at birds from a pontoon boat drifting down the Rogue River. According to press releases, the two men fired shotguns as their boat drifted near both Tussing and Reinhart Volunteer Parks. Some witnesses reported they heard pellets pass overhead.

Clement and Clark were taken into custody sometime after 5 p.m. and were booked into the Josephine County Jail. Both were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

Clement is the leader of RV Salt Shakers, a hate group that’s operated throughout southern Oregon for the last few years. Clark is allegedly a member as well. The Salt Shakers have been known to picket area Planned Parenthood clinics and harass patients and others using PP services. The Shakers have also been a nuisance at many local events, ranging from Pear Blossom to Ashland’s holiday parade. A number of groups have taken measures to bar the Salt Shakers from their events. They have also targeted the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

Clement’s group has been accused of using fear tactics and even intimidation.

“(Fear tactics) are sometimes necessary to further our message,” he said in 2019. “If it helps our cause, we’ll do it.”

Word of Clement and Clark’s arrests spread like wildfire through social media and it wasn’t long before the group’s page was hit by trolling.

Clement is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 14.

Convicted child abuser Trevor Emptage is a member of the hate group as well. It’s still not known if a criminal record is a prerequisite for RV Salt Shaker membership.

As of press time, the RV Salt Shakers page, one of them, is up on social media. For how long is not known.


03 December 2020

Vigil held for Ellison, FBI now involved


 By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – Over 200 people gathered at the Jackson County Courthouse for a Wednesday vigil for Aidan Ellison, a young Black man who was shot in Ashland on Nov. 23.

Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity (SOEquity) the Rogue Action Center and other local racial/social groups helped put the vigil together. Kayla Wade, SOEquity’s founder, was among the speakers.

“We’re here because a white man thought that a young Black kid just expressing himself and listening to music and decompressing was unacceptable and needed to be dealt with,” she said. “We’re here because every person of color, every Black person in this community, has experienced something like that: Having a white person decide that how we’re living our lives is unacceptable and that we need to tone it down or need to be silenced. If we want to live in a world where we can exist with dignity, something has to change.”

As previously reported, on Nov. 23, Keegan allegedly shot and killed Ellison. The victim was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and – armed with a concealed handgun – went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. 

Court records added a few details to the incident. Keegan was reportedly awakened by loud music this happened at around 4 a.m. He told police that he got dressed, put the gun in his jacket pocket, and went to the front desk. An employee then went out to the parking lot and spoke with Ellison. As they were talked, Keegan went outside and then confronted the young man. That is how the argument started.

Keegan claimed that Ellison hit him in the face a number of times. However, the autopsy indicated that Ellison’s hands lacked bruising or marks consistent with a physical assault. And Keegan’s face wasn’t bruised or marked.

Keegan is still being held at the Jackson County and no bail has been set. His next court date is Feb. 22, 2021.

Ellison’s death sparked outrage throughout the Southern Oregon area and ire at some local media outlets. CBS affiliate KTVL 10 went into detail about Keegan’s alleged plight as someone displaced by September’s Almeda Fire while very little was said about the victim. Meantime, Ellison’s family, living in Klamath Falls, have been targeted by harassment from local white supremacists and even some law enforcement, Clarence Carr claimed.

“It’s been very hard for them and they’re getting by,” he said. “It’s a day by day thing. No one should have to go through this shit.”

A number of people from the BIPOC community spoke during the vigil, sharing their experiences with racism here in the Rogue Valley. As Carr noted, many came here hoping they could avoid it.

“But no matter what, it’s here and we need to do something about it.”

As some local media outlets published articles about the vigil on social media, racism did rear its ugly head from time to time. It got so bad that in one case, KTVL banned “Elijah Rebel Kruis” for promoting hate speech, they said. Kruis’ Facebook page is adorned with Confederate flags and far-right posts. Others, like William Meehan, Jr. and  Ronald King, blamed Ellison for playing “crap rap music” too loud and said the victim was being “disrespectful.” In short, they victim shamed.

It was reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record but a restraining order was filed by his ex-wife a number of years ago. She also alleged that both she and her son – whom Keegan had custody of – were victims of his emotional and physical abuse.

On Thursday, Chief Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Police Dept., issued the following press release:

 

In reference to the murder of Aidan Ellison, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with the Ashland Police Department to assess whether there are any potential violations of federal laws.

While, at this time, this has not been substantiated, under state or federal law, to have been a bias crime, it is important to examine all aspects of this case and determine whether a bias crime has been committed.

Anyone with information pertinent to this case is encouraged to contact the Ashland Police Department.

The Ashland Police Department is grateful for the FBI’s engagement on this case.

An anonymous source, a former law enforcement officer, said they were glad to see the FBI aiding with the investigation.

“According to Oregon law, a hate crime happens when somebody intentionally uses offensive physical contact, threatens physical injury or threatens to cause damage to the property of another person because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin,” they said. “Did that happen? Not that we know of, so far. We do have at least one witness and maybe some security camera footage – but if there is video footage, how good is the audio? What did the witness hear or see that would indicate this was racially motivated? Those factors have to be taken into consideration. As to how long it will take – it’s hard to say. They have a lot of work ahead of them.”

01 December 2020

UPDATE: Autopsy shuts down Keegan's self defense claims


Accused murderer Robert Keegan claims self-defense but evidence says otherwise. Photo courtesy of the Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office.

By Brad Smith

ASHLAND, Ore. – Accused murderer Robert Paul Keegan claimed that a 19-year-old Black man punched him in the face and that he acted in self-defense by shooting him.

According to an unsealed probable cause affidavit, Keegan told Ashland police officers after Aidan Ellison supposedly hit him, he took a few steps back, drew his 9mm semiauto pistol then “racked a round and shot (Ellison) in the chest.”

However, the medical examiner’s findings dispute Keegan’s claim.

Court records show that the autopsy found the victim had no injuries on his hands consistent with physical assault – and Keegan himself lacked visible signs of being punched in the face.

As previously reported, on Nov. 23, Keegan allegedly shot and killed Ellison. The victim was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and – armed with a concealed handgun – went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. 

Court records added a few details to the incident. Keegan was reportedly awakened by loud music this happened at around 4 a.m. He told police that he got dressed, put the gun in his jacket pocket, and went to the front desk. An employee then went out to the parking lot and spoke with Ellison. As they were talked, Keegan went outside and then confronted the young man. That is how the argument started.

Thirty minutes later, Ellison was dead.

Keegan appeared in court last Friday and pleaded not guilty to the four charges. As of press time, he’s still lodged at the Jackson County Jail and no bond has been posted. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2021.

 Local media outlets reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record – however, in 2012, his then-wife Amy Jo Hoppins filed a restraining order against him when they lived in Coos County. Hoppins claimed that Keegan was both physically and emotionally abusive to her and their son. Fearing for her safety, Hoppins has gone into hiding and is attempting to regain custody of her son. She told The Rogue Free Press that she was still receiving threats from Keegan over the past year.

 A former law enforcement officer said they were “concerned” by Keegan’s account.

 “’Racked a round?’ That’s something you find in badly written private eye stories or other macho pulp crap novels,” they said. “It’s my opinion – my opinion, mind you – that Keegan was the aggressor here. He was looking for a confrontation. It sounds like the motel employee was doing their job and (Keegan) made things worse. Just another macho fuckup with a gun and a bad attitude.”

Local racial and social justice groups have already held vigils for Ellison and more are planned throughout the week.


 

Unknown Man Assaults Transgender Woman -- Let's Find Out Who He Is

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