HERMISTON — A racist letter that recent Umatilla County commissioner candidate Jonathan Lopez claimed was left anonymously in his mailbox was written by Lopez himself, according to Lopez and Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston.
On Monday, July 6, Edmiston said in an email that Lopez had confessed that he wrote the letter. Edmiston said the case would be forwarded to the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office for review for initiating a false report, a Class A misdemeanor in Oregon.
“From the onset, this alleged incident has been thoroughly investigated,” Edmiston wrote in an email. “Our investigation has shown that Mr. Lopez wrote the letter himself and made false statements to the police and on social media. The end result is a verbal and written admission by Mr. Lopez that the letter was fabricated.”
Lopez had previously posted a photo of a typed letter full of racist, homophobic and misogynist slurs to Facebook, stating that he had received the letter but that he had “no resentment for whomever wrote this.”
The letter, as shown in the photo, stated in part that Lopez and other “Mexicans” were “not welcome here” and that “America is for the God fearing, pro gun, pro life humans who refuse to be controlled by the government.”
Lopez initially stated that it was a big misunderstanding. He said he just meant to speak with Edmiston about racism in Umatilla County and use the letter as an example of the type of racism people experience, but often don’t speak out about publicly.
“I never meant to file a report, it just kind of spiraled out,” he said.
He also said he “never meant to mislead” the public.
When questioned further about his statements on Facebook and the fact that he told an East Oregonian reporter on June 24 that he had found the letter in his mailbox when he got home, he confirmed that he had told a police officer the same story.
Lopez ran for a seat on the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners during the May 2020 primary and placed fourth. He is also a member of the city of Hermiston’s Hispanic Advisory Committee.
Edmiston said his department was also forwarding information to the district attorney’s office about possibly fraudulent statements in Lopez’s entry in the May 2020 voter’s guide about his background and education. Those claims were also reported in the East Oregonian leading up to the election.
Edmiston also alleged that HPD has learned that Lopez never served in the U.S. Coast Guard as stated, which would be a violation of the 2013 Stolen Valor Act. Lopez has not provided documentation to the East Oregonian to confirm his claim of Coast Guard service when asked.
“This investigation is particularly frustrating as we are in the midst of multiple major investigations while battling a resource shortage due to the current pandemic,” Edmiston said. “The time spent on this fictitious claim means time lost on other matters, 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.”