Car clout at Cambodian Society in Stafford stokes fear
A car broken into on Sunday morning, March 21, at the Cambodian Buddhist Society of Oregon has the community on high alert.
The recent crime, along with an increase in crimes and harassment targeting Asian Americans over the past year— possibly due in part to inflammatory rhetoric from former President Donald Trump about the coronavirus — and the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta last week, has caused fear in the temple's community.
"As our elders were meditating and volunteers were cleaning our roof, a car window was broken into the parking lot," Dara Khon, a member of the temple community, wrote in an email to West Linn city leaders, including acting West Linn Police Chief Peter Mahuna. "With the tragedy in Atlanta fresh in our minds, this incident has caused a tremendous amount of fear in our community and we ask for your protection now more than ever."
Khon, whose mother is the temple's head cook and whose father is a temple gardener, told Pamplin Media Group that the temple does not want to point fingers or jump to conclusions and call Sunday's incident a hate crime.
"They are Buddhist," she said. "They are about energy and assuming best intentions."
According to Khon, the West Linn community and in particular the group Building Bridges West Linn have been very supportive of the temple since the incident.
"It is important for us to shed light on the community, and a lot of the West Linn neighborhood watchers and people that live by the temple have reached out to me and graciously offered to help, but what is most helpful is our Asian and Buddhist community being peaceful," Khon said.
West Linn Police Department Public Information Officer Jeff Halverson confirmed that the West Linn Police Department is aware of the incident at the Cambodian Society, but the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation because the temple is located outside West Linn city limits, just east of Tualatin in the Stafford area.
Halverson added that West Linn police had offered to assist Clackamas County authorities with whatever is needed in this case.
Clackamas County Sgt. Marcus Mendoza confirmed the sheriff's office is looking into the incident. The suspect stole a purse after breaking a car window at the temple, Mendoza said. According to the sergeant, this was the only time in the past few years a crime has been reported at the temple.
Khon said the temple community is worried that if there is a hate group in the area, the temple's coming Cambodian New Year celebration could be a target for more destruction.
Her email to Mahuna and West Linn leaders asks for extra patrols near the temple during the celebration, which takes place April 14-18.
The city of West Linn said WLPD was working with CCSO to provide more police presence in the area.
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