Oregon Man Sentenced After Repeated Hate Crimes Targeting Church
Benjamin Jaramillo Hernandez, 70, of Eugene, Oregon, was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for hate crimes committed against St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Eugene, Oregon. Hernandez also possessed illegal ammunition.
The charges related to several escalating attacks against the church in September 2018, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) news release.
First, on September 9, 2018, Hernandez was escorted off the church’s property following an angry outburst made during the sacrament of community. Five days later, a church employee reported Hernandez had sprayed pepper spray on the exterior door handles and through mail slots of the St. Mary’s office door.
Employees reported burning sensations in their fingers and trouble breathing as a result of the spray. A Eugene police officer and FBI agent identified Hernandez as the individual spraying the pepper spray in surveillance videos.
Two days later, Hernandez was spotted near the church and a public library shouting “I’ve got something for you right here,” while pointing to a bag he was carrying.
Days later, on September 20, 2018, a church employee found a threatening note and seven 10mm Sig hollow point bullets in the office. The note threatened the church with “2 MP5s w/ 50 rounds each”, referencing a type of submachine gun. The note ended with, “Eugene is going on the [expletive] map.”
Church surveillance identifies Hernandez as the person dropping off the note and bullets.
The following day, Hernandez was arrested.
During a search, Hernandez was found with a partially empty can of pepper spray, three .410 shotgun shells, and 13 10mm Sig hollow point bullets.
Hernandez pled guilty to two counts of obstruction or attempted obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religion and unlawful possession of ammunition.
According to the DOJ release, “St. Mary Catholic Church staff and parishioners have reported that Hernandez’s threats have left staff and churchgoers physically injured, frightened, concerned about their own safety and unable to participate freely in the exercise of their religious beliefs. The harassment has not only affected individual parishioners, but the parish as a whole. Multiple members of the St. Mary community have reported that the church has experienced a drop in attendance and in weekly collections after Hernandez’s conduct.”
The investigation was conducted by both local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
“Our right to worship freely and without fear is fundamental to life in America,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Whatever your faith, the FBI and our partners will work to protect your right to express your beliefs and live in peace.”
TAKEDOWN UPDATE: Several weeks ago FEDagent covered the takedown of Mark Steven Domingo, a California man arrested and facing charges for providing and attempting to provide material support for terrorists. This week, a federal grand jury formally indicted Domingo with the charges and included attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
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