HILLSBORO, Ore. – A pink poodle sparked what appeared to be a hate crime after a stranger stopped and got out of his car to attack a couple while screaming homophobic slurs.
It happened at 185th and Evergreen next to a busy strip mall with stores like Office Depot and Petco at about 3:30 p.m. Friday. It was why there were several witnesses when the victims said the attacker did a U-turn, got out of his car and went after them in the middle of a crosswalk in the middle of the day.
Hillsboro police said they arrested the suspect, 22-year-old George Allen Mason, Jr. (photo at right), at around 2 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Target store on NW Evergreen, not far from where the alleged attack happened.
David Beltier is happy to be alive.
"If I didn't hear all the other people honking, all the people seeing what was going on, he could have probably severely hurt me, maybe even killed me right there and then," he said Friday.
Beltier and his boyfriend, Jeremy Mark, were on a walk with their pink poodle "Beauty" – one of three colorful dogs dyed with Kool-Aid for Easter. Beltier said he dyed the dogs for fun.
But the fun with his poodle prompted profanities from a stranger who did a U-turn, got out of his car and began punching Beltier in the street.
"After that, he turns around, he goes back to his car, runs back to his car and brings out this long wrench-looking crowbar tool or something like that, and he comes back after me," Beltier said.
He said the man hit him in the arm and the back of the head.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Mark. "I was shouting at the guy to stop. There's no need for violence. There's nothing to provoke him. ... I was fearing for his life."
The man took off, but plenty of people were watching.
"One of the witnesses tried to block him in and got the license plate number for us and then another witness followed him," Mark said.
Police used that license plate number to track down Mason's 1997 Land Rover in the parking lot. Mason is a transient, according to police.
"I'm so grateful for the community," Beltier said. "If it wasn't for a lot of the witnesses and all the community people, it probably could have been really disastrous."
While police said it might be a good idea for his safety to take the dye out of his dogs' fur, Beltier said he doesn't want the attacker to win and have control over his life. He said he'll just let the dogs' colorful fur grow out on its own.
Police took Mason to the Washington County Jail. He faces charges of intimidation (2nd degree), assault (2nd degree), unlawful use of a weapon and reckless driving.
Officers also found Mason's wife, 23-year-old Saraya Gardner, in the car. Police cited Gardner for interfering with an officer because she was reluctant to cooperate. She was in the car during the attack, according to police.