DA: Weapon charge at Medford protest 'motivated by prejudice'
A White City man already charged with a hate crime for allegedly driving his truck into a crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators in downtown Medford now faces steeper penalties on a charge accusing him of using his pickup as a weapon.
The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office intends to argue that Christopher Ryan Biggs, 38, was “motivated by prejudice” June 1 when he allegedly used his vehicle as a weapon by accelerating into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators in the area of East Main Street and North Central Avenue, according to a document filed Wednesday by Deputy District Attorney Michael Cohen in Jackson County Circuit Court.
Biggs separately faces a felony charge of bias crime in the first degree in the incident, on accusations he intentionally placed others in “fear of imminent serious physical injury” because of his “perception of the race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation” of the alleged victims.
At 4:32 p.m. June 1, Medford police allegedly witnessed Biggs drive a large black Dodge or Ram pickup truck “through several protesters” at a “high rate of speed,” according to an affidavit filed by Medford police.
“I heard the protesters scream,” the officer wrote in the affidavit, adding that the truck hit at least one pedestrian and broke the skin on one demonstrator’s hand.
Police later reviewed “several video clips of the incident.”
“Based on the number of protesters who were standing in the roadway and at the intersection, it was not safe for Biggs to accelerate the way he did,” the officer wrote.
When questioned, Biggs allegedly told police he was only downtown to find his daughter, who told police she had called her parents for help because several protesters had “swarmed her vehicle.”
While at a standstill behind another truck, Biggs told police that protesters started hitting his truck and trying to get inside, describing a suspect wearing black sunglasses, a black mask and a black shirt.
“Biggs stated he didn’t know what to do,” the officer wrote.
Police, however, found no video evidence showing anyone attempting to get inside Biggs’ truck.
Minutes prior to the altercation, however, the Medford officer allegedly witnessed Biggs shout, “You f---ing queers” at Black Lives Matter demonstrators along West Sixth Street, according to the affidavit.
When questioned by police, Biggs allegedly stated that the slur came from another truck in the area.
“I did not observe any other truck in the area and specifically heard it come from Biggs as I was looking at him as he yelled it out his window,” the officer wrote.
Biggs was arraigned on a grand jury indictment Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, where he pleaded not guilty to all charges and later posted 10% bond on bail set at $22,500. As of Thursday, court records show he had not retained a defense lawyer and is representing himself in the case.
His next court appearance is set for Oct. 12.
Two other suspects charged with pulling guns at demonstrators marching in downtown Medford after George Floyd’s death have yet to make their initial court appearance, court records show.
David Robert Westmoreland, 51, of Central Point, will be arraigned Aug. 19 on two felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor charge of menacing, accusing him of brandishing a gun at demonstrators at the intersection of Ninth Street and Central Avenue in an altercation witnessed by a Mail Tribune reporter covering the rally.
Marcella Renee Welch, 56, of Medford, will be arraigned Sept. 24 on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and menacing on accusations that she pulled a gun June 6 during a protest that was allegedly captured on video.