Jonathan Lopez, a former candidate for commissioner of Umatilla County, Oregon, recently claimed to have received a racist, hate-filled letter from an anonymous person. After a thorough investigation from the Hermiston Police Department (HDP), it turns out that he wrote the letter to himself.
The letter is peppered with racist remarks, such as one stating that Lopez and other “Mexicans” were not welcome in the United States. It also contains many homophobic and misogynistic slurs directed against the aspiring politician. Lopez claimed that he received the letter but that he bore no resentment for the anonymous sender.
The letter, news of which went viral on social media after Lopez shared it, ends by saying that “America is for the God fearing, pro-gun, pro-life humans who refuse to be controlled by the government. There’s no room for people like you here!” This makes it clear that the letter was supposed to be written by a racist conservative.
“Our investigation has shown that Mr. Lopez wrote the letter himself and made false statements to the police on social media. The end result is a verbal and written admission by Mr. Lopez that the letter was fabricated,” said HPD Chief of Police Jason Edmiston in a statement sent by the department.
The police chief also said that the former county commissioner candidate’s case is being forwarded to the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office, who will review if a case can be filed against Lopez for initiating a false report, which is a Class A misdemeanor in Oregon. This is punishable by up to a 364-day jail sentence, a $6,250 fine or both.
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In an attempt to save his own skin, Lopez initially claimed that all he meant to do was to speak with Chief Edmiston about the prevalence of racism in Umatilla County, and to use the letter he forged as an example of the type of racism that many people of color in the county experience.
“I never meant to file a report, it just kind of spiraled [out of control],” he said.
But when he was questioned about statements he made on social media and the fact that he told reporters that he received the letter in his mailbox on June 24, the former politician confirmed that he had told an HPD officer the same story on the day he supposedly received the letter.
Lopez has since taken down his social media accounts, and has also sent an open letter addressed to “esteemed Umatilla county commissioners, leaders, representatives, law enforcement, community members and all residents.”
In his open letter, he admits to sending himself the racist message, and apologizes for fabricating the hate crime and for the hurt his hoax caused to the community. He also claimed that the letter was written during a very dark, low point in his life and that he now accepts that he is not fit to be any kind of public servant or representative for the people of Umatilla County.
He also apologized to his church and to his wife, as he knows his actions reflected poorly on both of them. (Related: NASCAR “noose” incident NOT hate crime but garage pull down strap.)
Members of Umatilla County’s Latin community have voiced how appalled they are of Lopez’s actions. Three individuals – Anesat Leon-Guerrero, Helday de la Cruz and Jazmin Yajaira Avalos – even penned a response to the revelation that Lopez faked the whole affair.
In their response, they made it clear that Lopez was never really able to represent his community, as many of his politics and stances were not supported by Umatilla’s Latin population.
In fact, they also stated that many members of the community began asking questions about Lopez’s policies and credentials when he first filed his candidacy to be county commissioner.
“The trust he was attempting to build was questionable from the beginning,” they wrote, and the revelation that the racist letter was nothing more than a hoax confirmed their belief that Lopez is not the right person to represent Umatilla County’s Latino community.
Among the questions raised include his supposed service with the U.S. Coast Guard. Chief Edmiston stated that the HPD has found no evidence to support Lopez’s claim that he previously worked with the Coast Guard, and the former candidate himself has not provided any documentation either to the police or to local media outlets to support his claim of service. If his claims are fully proven to be fraudulent, then Lopez can also be charged under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which criminalizes false claims of service in the military.
Edmiston is personally frustrated with the whole affair, as the county is currently dealing with civil unrest, multiple major investigations and having to work with fewer resources due to constraints put upon them by the emergence of the global Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The time spent on this fictitious claim means time lost on other matters,” he said, “not to mention it needlessly adds to the incredible tension that exists in our nation today. As a lifelong resident of this diverse community, I’m disgusted someone would try to carelessly advance their personal ambitions at the risk of others.”
Learn more about the different ways other criminals are faking hate crimes at Hoax.news.