Lewis & Clark student Valcourt Honore said he was with the victim before and after the attack. Portland police identified the victim as a 26-year-old, foreign-born, black male.
Honore said he and the victim were hanging out when the latter left to buy some food.
When the victim returned, three white males confronted him in a secluded part of the campus along the estate gardens near a reflection pool, campus officials said.
The victim said, according to Honore, that the suspects then referenced racist social media posts that appeared earlier this week on Yik Yak, an app that lets people share anonymous posts with users located near them.
“They asked him what he was doing there because he’s a black student and he’s not supposed to be at this place,” Honore said.
He went on to say the attackers asked the victim if he “understands what’s going on because of all the Yik Yak posts.”
The men then attacked the victim, who reported that at least one of the men grabbed him from behind and tried to force him to drink an unknown substance.
The victim eventually broke free from the attackers, according to Honore. When he returned, Honore helped take care of the victim for about 40 minutes before they contacted campus security.
“He was trying to vomit,” Honore said. “That thing that he drank, he thought it could have an effect on him.”
Honore said the victim refused medical attention from an ambulance that came to campus later.
Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson said the department are investigating the attack as a “bias crime.”
“The victim told police the suspects used racial epithets before assaulting him,” Simpson said.
Portland police responded to a report of the attack around 12:49 a.m. Simpson said it’s not unusual for victims to delay reporting these types of crimes.
“What we find a lot of times is people who are victims of a bias crime need to seek the companionship of friends or family before reporting it,” Simpson said.
Police said they are continuing to investigate both the assault and the social media posts.
Lewis & Clark Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez said students have been upset by the attack.
“It’s a shock to us because it’s generally a very safe campus, safe neighborhood,” she said.
Since the incident, Gonzalez said the school has hired additional security on campus.
Going forward, she said the school is going to continue to work with the police “in trying to find out how we can be helpful in finding out who these assailants are.”
But she said the main goal right now is supporting the students.
“Our first priority is supporting our students through all of this,” Gonzalez said, “and looking at ways we can continue to improve campus safety.”