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Man faces bias crime charges after destroying Portland store, harassing worker with anti-Muslim slurs

Cellphone video shows the suspect, 43-year-old Brian Christopher Miller, yelling anti-Muslim slurs and threatening to kill the 68-year-old Afghan American worker.

PORTLAND, Ore — A man is facing several charges in connection with an attack on a convenience store worker in Southeast Portland on Friday.

Cellphone video shows the suspect, identified by police as 43-year-old Brian Christopher Miller, yelling anti-Muslim slurs and threatening to kill the 68-year-old worker, who is Muslim and emigrated from Afghanistan. 

It happened at a Chevron gas station convenience store in Southeast Portland. The employee recorded the attack on his cellphone as he frantically called 911.

In the video, Miller is seen yelling at the worker for several minutes, saying things like: "Is that how we do things in America? Afghan, Al Qaeda, Osama?" and "I'll [expletive] shoot you in the back!"

Miller threw things and shoved a food case at the victim, and police say he stole items.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

"To have the wherewithal to [record] in such fear and terror and panic - it was fortunate we were able to capture this because what would the situation be if it weren't captured on video," Seemab Hussaini, the vice chair for the Oregon Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told KGW.

Portland police responded quickly and arrested Miller for first-degree criminal mischief and third-degree robbery. He was released on his own recognizance a few hours later, meaning he didn’t need to pay bail. 

He appeared in court by phone on Monday.

Late Monday afternoon, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced his office is pursuing hate crime charges against Miller. In Oregon these are known as "bias crimes."

Miller is now charged with three counts of first-degree bias crime, three counts of second-degree bias crime and one count each of first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, second-degree disorderly conduct, second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree criminal trespass, menacing, third-degree robbery and third-degree theft.

CAIR-Oregon had called for hate crime charges against Miller.

"The initial charges should define the hate, they should define the violence, they should define the threat to life," Hussaini said. "The importance of charging and doing this as a law enforcement agency is to be able to make sure that there’s proper accounting for hate crimes committed. With proper accounting of hate crimes committed you have a system that starts to record, understand, and gather information and data behind this.”

Hussaini met with the family, who he said is traumatized.

"It's difficult, it's painful. You have an immigrant family that arrived here in the early 80's,” Hussaini said. "You feel less American when you're treated like an other.”

The family wants to stay anonymous to protect themselves from the suspect and any one else who may target them.

Hussaini said the victim is sore after being attacked. He's back to work, with support from his son and nearby businesses keeping an eye out and watching his back.

Ultimately, his family wants justice for what happened.

"I was like, 'What should justice look like?'" Hussaini said of his conversation with the family. "They’re like, 'People need help. Who knows what's wrong with this man, but this man has hate in his heart. How do you stop that?'"