Portland police say they have asked the state Attorney General’s Office to determine if a hate crime was committed by a man who went into a Monument Square restaurant Saturday afternoon and screamed at the employees.

Jesse James Taylor

The incident at Sisters Gourmet Deli drew attention after the business owner, Michaela McVetty, posted a surveillance video of the incident on Facebook and vented her frustration with the toll on the city from the number of people who live on the streets of Portland without a job or home, who suffer from mental illness or drug and alcohol addiction.

The encounter occurred just before 3 p.m. Saturday, when a man, later identified by as Jesse James Taylor, 37, entered the restaurant and began ranting and raving at the mostly female staff. An employee called police, and McVetty said it took police about 10 minutes to respond. A stranger on the street helped coax Taylor out of the restaurant before officers arrived, she said.

Taylor was charged with disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, in addition to interfering with constitutional rights, because he allegedly made derogatory references to the sexuality of the female employees.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was sentenced to five days in jail. The case is being referred to the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office for review because Taylor was insulting the staff specifically because of their gender.

Taylor has also been ordered to stay out of Sisters Gourmet Deli.


In her Facebook posting, which had been viewed more than 37,000 times by Wednesday afternoon, McVetty said the incident was a result of people ignoring mental health and drug problems.

“This is what happens when a City doesn’t have programs in place to deal with unstable people,” she wrote. “This is what happens when the City doesn’t want to deal with it.”

The video generated a deluge of sympathetic messages from other business owners.

“We’ve watched people shoot up, we’ve watched people overdose,” McVetty said. “What I’m concerned about is not just my deli or the square, it’s Portland as a whole. This needs to be a true, honest conversation the city needs to have.”

McVetty said she is expecting to meet Thursday with Mayor Ethan Strimling, and urged other community members to take action.

No one else has reached out from the city, she said. Police stopped in to check on the restaurant shortly after Police Chief Michael Sauschuck held a press conference regarding the encounter—but they did not leave any contact information for the department, she said.


Sauschuck said police in Portland are specially trained to deal with mental health issues, and lamented the lack of community-based mental health treatment options that were promised but never materialized after the closure of state-run mental hospitals for widespread abuses.

“I don’t think the mental health system is broken, I think it is shattered,” Sauschuck said. “Folks are really suffering day-to-day without the proper treatment and supports they need to live health and productive lives.”

The chief also disputed McVetty’s comments on how long it took officers to arrive at the deli, saying police records show police arrived three minutes after they were dispatched to the call.

McVetty said that since she opened the deli in March last year, she has seen an increase in the number of people in Monument Square who appear to be affected by drugs and alcohol or mental illness.

She also lamented how her staff of about 10, who she praised for remaining calm during the encounter with Taylor, have gotten used to seeing erratic behavior. McVetty said she is disappointed with city government for failing to address such an obvious problem.

“What I’m sick of is hearing ‘We don’t have the resources,'” she said. “B.S. There’s money.”

Another business owner in the square, Joel Glatz, who owns the Monument Grill a few doors away from Sisters, said he, too, has been disappointed with police response to complaints.

Even after he watched as a man and woman deal drugs from a bench in front of his store, he said local police diverted the matter to state DEA agents, who did not show up until a day later.

“If they would come regularly, I’d call them more often,” Glatz said.

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