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Arrest made after video of race-fueled intimidation, menacing goes viral

Screenshot of a video posted to Facebook by Emora Roberson of a woman wielding a knife while unleashing a racist rant against Roberson and others in the car.
Screenshot of a video posted to Facebook by Emora Roberson of a woman wielding a knife while unleashing a racist rant against Roberson and others in the car.
Rocco
Rocco

(UPDATED: 1/4)

Amber Rocco will be arraigned on a Yamhill County Grand Jury indictment at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, before Circuit Court Judge Ronald Stone.

She has been indicted on the same 10 charges on which she was arraigned earlier this week, including three felony counts.

Rocco, a Willamina resident, is out of custody.

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(UPDATED: 1/2, 8 p.m.)

By PAUL DAQUILANTE and TOM HENDERSON
Of the News-Register

Last-minute Christmas shopping took a violent and racist turn Monday, Dec. 24 for Emora Roberson of McMinnville and her boyfriend Keysuan Goodyear of Beaverton. They were confronted by a woman who pulled a knife on them and hurled racial slurs in the parking lot of McMinnville Plaza at 635 Highway 99W.

McMinnville police arrested Amber Rose Rocco, 39, of Willamina, in connection with the incident Friday, Dec. 28. She was arraigned Monday, Dec. 31 by Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge John Collins on two counts each of second-degree intimidation, menacing and unlawful use of a weapon, in addition to three counts of harassment and one count of fourth-degree assault. The weapon and assault charges are Class C felonies. The other charges are Class A and B misdemeanors.

Rocco was booked into jail on $40,000 at arraignment but released after she posted the required 10 percent. 

“I do deeply regret all of my actions that led up to these charges,” Rocco said during the arraignment. Collins then advised her to say nothing further about the case.

Her next appearance has not been finalized, according to court records. Rocco's defense will be handled by McMinnville attorney Mark Lawrence.

Roberson, 20, told the News-Register she and her Aunt Shelly went into Gandalf’s Smoke & Vape Shop at the strip mall around 2:30 p.m. Dec. 24. She left Goodyear, 19, in her Kia Sedona with her 15-month-old daughter. “From there, we were going to go Christmas shopping,” she said.

Goodyear said he was sitting in the rear passenger seat when Rocco pulled up, criticized the aunt’s parking and called him a racially offensive name. She went into Domino’s Pizza and emerged about the same time Roberson and her aunt exited the smoke shop.

As the two women returned to the car, Roberson said she saw the woman police believe was Rocco parked in a pickup yelling at Goodyear.

“She kept calling me a [racist term for African-Americans], even though I wasn’t even the one driving the car,” he said.

Goodyear, who grew up in Washington state, said he has never been called the N-word or any other racist obscenity before in his life. “I was angry and very upset,” he said. “My hands were sweaty. I wanted to do something, but you can’t react to everything everyone says.”

Roberson said she was equally upset, especially with a baby asleep in the back seat. “I was shaking because I was so mad,” she said. “I mean, I had a baby in the car, and she didn’t even care.”

When the perpetrator slapped him and spit on him, Goodyear said he also grew angry and warned the woman about using racist language. The woman responded by pulling a knife. “I’ll stab you,” Rocco allegedly said. “I’ll kill you [racist slur].”

At that point, Roberson began taking video of the incident and later posted it on Facebook, where it has since gone viral. It was reposted by a national advocacy group, Occupy Democrats, where it has received more than 1 million views.

The video shows the woman saying, along with more racial slurs, that she pulled the knife in self-defense. In angry and explicit language, Roberson tells her she’s racist.

“Then she slammed my foot in the car door,” Roberson said. “I was about to get out of the car, but she slammed my foot in the door. She was clearly getting violent, and I said, ‘You know, we just have to leave.’ After that, she was still cursing and calling us [racial slurs].”

According to a report filed by McMinnville Police Officer Robert Harmon, the arresting officer, Roberson reported the pain caused to her right ankle rated a seven out of 10. 

The video shows the woman get in her pickup next to an unidentified male in a ball cap and using her cellphone before screaming another racist slur as the video ends. “Ms. Rocco told me she was only defending herself and is not racist at all,” Harmon wrote in his report.

Roberson wrote down the woman’s license plate number and reported her to the police. Roberson was interviewed by police about the incident Friday afternoon, she said, shortly before Rocco was arrested at 7:50 p.m.

“I’m definitely pressing charges,” Roberson said.

The Yamhill County Sheriff's Office, Oregon Stgate Police and Grand Ronde Tribal Police assisted with the arrest.

Roberson said she was told the incident may not technically qualify as a hate crime under Oregon law.

Under state law, a hate crime is defined as a person or group damaging property, threatening other people or subjecting them to offensive physical contact “because of the person’s perception of the other’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”

However, police must have probable cause to determine that a suspect intentionally threatened or assaulted someone because of those factors. Racial slurs are not illegal in themselves.

Roberson said that may be why the woman who assaulted her, her boyfriend and family faces charges of intimidation.

Unlike Goodyear, Roberson said she has experienced racism. “I definitely have, but not here in McMinnville,” she said. “It was Illinois.”

Although Roberson is African-American, she said she was adopted by a white family and raised in a predominantly white community in Washington state. Her family never expected her to experience overt racism in McMinnville either, she said. “They were really shocked by it.”

Nonetheless, Roberson said hatred and bigotry are everywhere. Although no one in McMinnville has called her racist names before, she said she has definitely noticed sideways glances that betray the prejudice behind people’s silence.

Rhonda Pope, the office manager of the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce as well as its communication and events coordinator, is Roberson’s godmother and said she knows how she feels.

She is married to a person of color, Pope said, and has also received disapproving looks. However, she said, she is glad dramatic displays of racism in the community are comparatively rare.

“This whole incident is horrible,” said Pope. “She was scared. You could hear the fear in her voice. I’m so sad for them.”

Roberson and Goodyear are somewhat surprised by their newfound media status. In addition to talking with the News-Register, they have been interviewed by Portland newspapers and television stations.

For the most part, Roberson said, she is proud she was able to stand up for herself and Goodyear during the incident without physically responding to the woman. “I definitely wanted to, but I like to think before I do something,” she said.

She is concerned, she added, by the effect the incident had on her baby daughter. “She doesn’t respond well to yelling and that kind of stuff,” Roberson said. “It really scares her.”

Comments

treefarmer


This hateful incident has gone viral which usually indicates that the perpetrator will be quickly identified and called to account. Let us hope and assume that our Law Enforcement officials will give this repulsive racial intimidation all the attention it deserves. (The sooner the better.)

Paul Daquilante

tree farmer . . .

An arrest was made Friday night.

treefarmer


Mr. Daquilante – Thanks to you and the N/R for the update. The video of this incident has been shared far and wide, and the country is watching to see how we deal with it. Obviously it has been taken very seriously and we can be confident that justice will be served. A number of posts on social media noted that McMinnville is a nearly all-white community, some even suggested that might factor negatively in the way this would be handled. Those of us who are fortunate to live here know better. We may have an imbalance of racial diversity but we have NO lack of decency and respect for our fellow citizens. The outrage was immediate and so was the response. It appears that our community has set a hopeful example in these racially unsettled times.


Paul Daquilante

treefarmer . . .

Reporter Tom Henderson is responsible for updating this story.

Trafik

I was horrified to see this in my town. While I know racism exists everywhere, I will admit to a very small sense of gratitude that this awful, angry, ignorant, ill-mannered rube of a white trash woman calls a city other than McMinnville her home.

Amber Rocco, you are a deep embarrassment to all of the Yamhill Valley.

Joel

Trafik, While I share your horror and disgust at the hateful, racist things this woman said, keep in mind that when you refer to her as "white trash" you are also (probably without even realizing it) being hateful and racist.

Joel

Hate will never conquer hate...it only inflames it. Only love can conquer hate. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this. His love for ALL people was what made him so powerful.

Trafik

I hate no one. In cases such as this, the one demonstrating hateful behavior is least deserving of the time and care it takes to truly hate.

While I agree there’s no polite way of using the term “white trash,” I don’t believe the term is inherently hateful or racist, itself — I’ve never thought of “white” as a legitimate singular race. Insulting? Yes. Demeaning? Of course. I use the term sparingly as a matter of habit but occasionally, someone earns it. If a woman wearing camouflage, holding a knife and screaming racial epithets as she violently slams a door on a person of color’s leg hasn’t earned the term’s use, I don’t know who has.

I stand behind my wording and I reiterate: Amber Rocco, you are a deep embarrassment to this community.

gregtompkins

I notice a lot more bigotry and racism coming from left wingers. And go up to Portland proper - it’s starting to look like downtown Los Angeles skid row and nothing but graffiti needles and campers everywhere. Oh but those Portlanders sure know best about diversity and inclusion and how to cast aspersions on “us?” We are in big trouble in this “region.” It’s turning into the next San Francisco! And quickly :-(

Lulu

What a nasty face.

Mike

The phone documenting life as it is. It let us see nasty intimate details between people. The recent eviction of a guest from a Portland motel for talking with his mother in the lobby. This local incident. For now we believe what we see and we are horrified. The technology exists to create fictional images and interactions. God help us to know the difference when it begins to happen. For this incident I'm glad there was a phone to document the vial behavior.

Mudstump

Joel - "Trafik, While I share your horror and disgust at the hateful, racist things this woman said, keep in mind that when you refer to her as "white trash" you are also (probably without even realizing it) being hateful and racist."

I agree and your comment about MLK is spot on. This woman has darkness inside and will most likely reap nothing but darkness and trouble until she can find her way into the light. When you are filled with hatred you bring hatred and misery to everything you do.

Trafik

I apologize to those who took offense at my use of the term "white trash." Your patience with and tolerance of bigots like Amber Rocco is remarkable and probably commendable.

As the parent of a child of color, I find myself unable to be so benevolent. I abhor behavior like Rocco demonstrated and I tend to address such conduct in the strongest terms.

Trafik

Sorry, that came out wrong. I do not mean to imply you, Mudstump and Joel, approve of Amber Rocco’s behavior — I’m certain you don’t. I commend your willingness to see the possibility for future redemption in a person such as Rocco.

I am a cynic in this realm. I see little possibliity for redemption, only a much greater likelihood that Rocco will pass off her despicable beliefs, warped attitudes and utter lack of self-control to her offspring.

bonnybedlam

Going to be pedantic here for a minute, since this keeps coming up: "White trash" is an inherently racist term, but not because it insults white people (white is not an oppressed race). It's racist because its only purpose, at the time the phrase was first coined, was to differentiate between low class white people and all people of color, all of whom, it went without saying, were trash. It was an easy way of saying "lower than a slave", and more socially acceptable (especially for ladies) than using the n-word preceded by "white".

So, yeah, it's racist, but only because the slap at an individual white person is dependent on the centuries-long assumption of Black inferiority.

Treehouse

I wonder how Ms. Rocco became violently radicalized in the first place. For the sake of public safety the investigation needs to go further.

Trafik

Good grief.

As an amateur student of etymology, I am aware many popular terms come loaded with baggage from eras when racist / misogynist / classist language was the norm. I am also aware the distance of time — for right or for wrong — sometimes washes terms of their original context, assuring them places in current vernacular.

Because I seem to have caused angst in describing that delightful Willaminaian, Amber Rocco, as “white trash,” please let me offer one more mea culpa and a simple clarification: when I used the term, I meant to describe Rocco as “white” and as “trash,” nothing more.