Lopez, reopen Hermiston

Former Umatilla County commissioner candidate Jonathan Lopez speaks at a “Freedom Rally” on Saturday, May 30, 2020. The rally, which drew roughly 100 attendees, was focused on reopening Hermiston and Eastern Oregon.

HERMISTON — After confessing to police that he penned a racist letter he originally claimed to have received anonymously, Jonathan Lopez now has a more direct message to anyone the letter harmed: He is sorry.

“I wanted to apologize and take responsibility,” he said.

The letter in question was full of racist slurs, anti-immigrant language and violent threats, stating that there is no room for “people like you” in America. He originally posted it to social media and gave a copy to the Hermiston Police Department, claiming he had found it in his mailbox on June 24. But on July 6, he confessed to writing it himself.

In a discussion with the East Oregonian on July 9, Lopez said as the days went by he “wasn’t feeling too good” about it and decided to confess.

Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said Lopez had volunteered the confession and police had not previously found any proof that he had written the letter himself. He also expressed frustration that the investigation into the letter had taken up department resources during a time when Umatilla County was dealing with multiple homicide investigations.

After the story of his confession spread across social media and news outlets, Lopez was also publicly condemned by many members of the Hermiston-area community. Hermiston residents Jazmin Yajaira Avalos, Anesat Leon-Guerrero and Heldáy de la Cruz wrote a response stating that they were “appalled” by his actions and that he wasn’t fit to represent Hermiston’s Latino community. They asked him to apologize immediately and step down from any leadership positions.

“Our community can never be defined by one individual alone, like Lopez,” they wrote. “His actions do not reflect our values, and we urge him to self-reflect and hold himself accountable if he truly seeks to grow from his self-initiated experience.”

Lopez said the experience has been a painful process, but he knows he brought it upon himself.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “I’ve been harassed by a lot of people, more than anything, which I understand. I don’t expect pity.”

He said as he had reached out to apologize to groups, such as the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners, where he had recently run for election, there were also people who had told him that they hoped he was able to learn from his mistakes.

He said he hoped that no one would use the incident to discount instances of real racism, a problem which he said he was attempting to highlight when he wrote the letter.

On July 8, he sent out another letter, this time signed by him and addressed to “esteemed Umatilla county commissioners, leaders, representatives, law enforcement, community members and all residents” apologizing for his actions and any hurt caused.

“With the most deepest sincerity of what’s left of my heart and life. I would like to apologize for my wrongful doings,” he wrote. “The letter written by me came from a dark low place. It should have never been written.”

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