POLICE ARE LOOKING for a suspect in a December assault who seems to have disappeared. Twenty-eight-year-old Rickey Lee Watson Jr. is wanted on suspicion of assaulting an Egyptian-born Portlander in a bathroom at the nightclub Dirty on December 11.
The attack could be more unfortunate fallout of Mohamed Osman Mohamud's plot to bomb Pioneer Courthouse Square. Before Watson allegedly punched the victim, Mufeed Yacoub, in the face he spit out the words, "You Arab, I know your kind." Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Over the past three years, 16 hate crimes against Arab men and women have been reported in Oregon. In that same span, Arab men have been suspects in five hate crimes. The largest group of perpetrators is white men, who have committed 64 percent of reported hate crimes in the state since 2007.
Local community leaders have been worried about retaliatory attacks against Arab and Muslim Oregonians after the FBI sting on Mohamud made national headlines over Thanksgiving weekend. Interfaith groups and city officials held two peace rallies in Pioneer Courthouse Square during the past two months, and no major violence against Oregon Muslims has been reported after the firebombing of the Corvallis mosque Mohamud attended.
Yacoub, a mechanical engineering student at Portland State University, moved from Egypt to Portland with his parents in 1999. He was out late that Saturday night, partying with friends and his brother to celebrate the end of the fall term.
The group wound up at Dirty, an always raucous club on NW 3rd. Yacoub and a friend got a shot and headed to use the bathroom. While he waited by the sink, Yacoub heard a voice loud and clear over the din of the bar: "You Arab. I know your kind."
"I turned around to see if he was kidding, if he had a smirk on his face. Right as I turned, he pushed me and then punched me in the right side of my face," says Yacoub. The punch knocked Yacoub to the floor, chipped his tooth, and left him with a bloody hole above his lip.
Yacoub's brother drove him to the emergency room. While he waited for stitches, the pair tried to figure out whether they should report the assault to the police. They decided to head back to Dirty to see if they could review that night's security tapes and identify the assailant. But Yacoub says when they got back to Dirty, the bar owner said they could not look at the tape and that if they went to the police, they would be banned from the club.
The owner of Dirty, Chris Lenahan, contests that point. "That's ridiculous. Never happened." Lenahan says he told the brothers they couldn't come into the bar because workers were counting money—but that they could come back the next day to watch the tape. The brothers decided to report the attack to the cops, who then used Dirty's security record (they scan every ID over a camera at the door) to identify the suspect.
The gash on Yacoub's face is now a small scar. Yacoub says he's gotten a lot of support from friends, but that he feels a bit nervous hanging out in crowded clubs. "I've always been grateful for being in Portland, and I still am. I felt this shock, I felt disappointed for this happening," he says.
Police initially thought they could find the suspect, but last Friday, January 7, asked for the public's help in tracking him down.
Police ask anyone who might know the suspect, Rickey Lee Watson Jr., or where he could be, to call Detective Kevin Warren at 503-823-3761.