Man Who Intimidated Portland Muslim Couple Days After MAX Stabbing Reaches Plea Deal

By Ericka Cruz Guevarra (OPB)
Aug. 3, 2018 5:47 p.m.

Just two days after a deadly stabbing on a light-rail train in Portland last year, Fredrick Harmes, a white man, drove up next to a Muslim couple in their car in Northeast Portland with his van.

Harmes opened his driver side window and ordered Jaminah Shannon, a black Muslim woman, to take off her niqab and hijab.


"Take the burka off," Harmes reportedly said. "This is America. Go back to your f***ing country."

Shannon and her husband, Aleksandr Wray, slowed their car to let Harmes pass. Harmes kept pace with the couple for several blocks and continued to yell. He swerved his van toward the victims' vehicle.

At a red light, Harmes hung out of his window and used his hands to mimic a gun. Using finger gestures, he pretended to shoot at the couple.

Harmes was convicted of two counts of second-degree intimidation under Oregon hate crime statutes in April, and on Friday, he reached a plea deal with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office — a deal requiring he pay more than $3,000 in fines. More than $1,000 will help pay for a security camera system at the Abu-Bakar Islamic Center, which was vandalized in September with the word "ISIS."

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Harmes has since apologized for the incident, which heightened fears for Portland's Muslim community just days after the deadly MAX train stabbing in May 2017. But what makes this case unique, according to Judge Benjamin Souede, is the rare opportunity for restorative justice.


In the courtroom, Souede said the criminal justice system has a proclivity for punishment.

"This case offers a better opportunity than that," Souede told Harmes. "This offers an opportunity to not only help you be a better version of yourself, but also to provide restorative justice to our community. That's a rare and important thing."

Harmes, who also uses the last name "Sorrell," agreed to three years probation and an educational conversation with members of the Muslim community about their faith. He's required to serve 100 hours of community service meant to directly benefit the Muslim community. Pending successful completion of his probation, a 45-day jail sentence will be suspended. No restitution will be paid. No apology letters will be written. Harmes will not be allowed to contact the victims.

The victims of the incident did not appear in court, though their testimony from an April court hearing endured at Friday's hearing. Souede said he promised the victims he would listen to their April testimony before Friday's hearing. He did.

"It stuck with me," Souede said. "But so did your apology," he told Harmes.

At the same April court hearing, Shannon said she knew the two young African-American women directly affected by the MAX stabbing last year. Jeremy Christian is accused of murdering two people who intervened as Christian shouted racist remarks at the two girls. One of them was wearing a hijab.

"For something like this to happen two days after [the MAX stabbing], it's a true testament to the state that Oregon is in, and the people feel like they have a right to behave in such a manner," Shannon said at Harmes' court hearing in April.

"I had a very close connection to the girls," she said, saying she worked directly with them at a school.

Harmes spoke before the judge without prepared remarks. On May 29, 2017, Harmes was in the middle of a divorce and was desperate to sell his home and leave Portland. Mainstream media had filled his head with "inappropriate ideas" of the Muslim community. He was angry; his ignorance drove him to do what he did that day, he said.

"I let my mouth write a check my rear end couldn't afford," Harmes told the judge. "Today I will remember to watch my words."