Charges dropped against Marine in Portland Iraqi restaurant assault

Marine charged in attack at Iraqi restaurant

Update: Charges against Sergeant Major Damien T. Rodriguez have been dropped.

In asking for the dismissal, the district attorney's office wrote that "an investigation is pending and that the ends of justice will be best served" by dropping the charges. 

In an earlier statement, the Marine Corps said it "reserves the right to address this incident through administrative and judicial means once the local investigation is complete and case adjudicated."

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The suspect in an attack in a Portland Iraqi restaurant is an active duty Marine who has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Sergeant Major Damien T. Rodriguez, 40, served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Marine Corps biography.

He told jailers of the PTSD diagnosis but did not specify a date. He is taking Ritalin and Propranolol.

Rodriguez was initially accused of harassment and second-degree disorderly conduct and intimidation. He was booked and released.

The charge of second-degree intimidation, a hate crime under Oregon law, has been dropped. However, Portland police told KGW that the case has been assigned to a bias crime detective. Police also said they are aware of Rodriguez' military status and that it would have no bearing on their investigation.

First Lieutenant Matthew Gregory, a public affairs officer for the 1st Marine Division, said they are aware of the arrest and will assist Portland law enforcement if requested.

The full statement read as follows:

"We can confirm that SgtMaj Damion T. Rodriguez was arrested by Portland law enforcement after an altercation in a local Portland restaurant. At this time, The 1st Marine Division will fully assist Portland law enforcement if asked to do so and reserves the right to address this incident through administrative and judicial means once the local investigation is complete and case adjudicated. As Marines, we are expected to uphold and abide by the highest of principals and ethical behavior, both on and off duty."

The owners of the DarSalam restaurant in Northeast Portland said one of their servers was the victim of a racially motivated attack Friday evening.

“I had my sister call me crying,” said Ghaith Sahib, owner of DarSalam.

Two men walked into DarSalam on Friday. Sahib said they acted bizarre, refusing to order food for nearly an hour.

Sahib said there were racial slurs and profanities. Then one of the men grabbed a chair and assaulted a server.

“We were really sad about what happened,” said Sahib. “We feel sorry for the guy and we feel sorry for ourselves, too.”

Sahib’s wife is even more troubled by what happened. She is a Portland native. She says one of the restaurant’s missions is to show Portlanders Iraqis are people, too.

“We all breathe,” said Tiffany Sahib. “We all have blood in our bodies.”

She said the marine and another man were looking for trouble from the time they entered the restaurant, making racial slurs and other comments.

“Clearly these guys had a problem with middle easterners and Iraq,” said Tiffany Sahib.

Now she wants the sergeant major charged with a hate crime.

“It’s obvious it's a hate crime. And it was an assault. Our staff member is injured physically, both of our staff members that were most directly involved are traumatized emotionally as well,” she said.

In March 2004, Rodriguez deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq with the 2nd Battalion 4th Marines. During his seven months there, the unit "engaged in heavy urban combat," his biography reads.

In 2006, he returned to Iraq for four months for the so-called U.S. forces "surge" into the Al Anbar Province.

Rodriguez deployed to Afghanistan rrom November 2010 until May 2011, and returned there in April 2012 until the end of his deployment in September of the same year.

He earned the prestigious Sergeant Major rank in November of 2015. He now serves as the 1st Battalion 11th Marines Battalion Sergeant Major.

His awards include Bronze Star Medal with combat ‘V’ for valor, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold star in lieu of second award.

Jail booking documents show a Southern California address, though he has lived in Portland for the last four months. Rodriguez has been married 21 years and has two children living at home. 

KGW talked with two veterans dining at DarSalam, before Rodriguez' duty status was known. They wanted to support the Sahib family and staff.

“One veteran, angry for whatever reason, whether he’s out of his head space or he’s genuinely an angry person, doesn’t represent all of us,” said Seth Grant.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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