ashland.news
February 21, 2024

Former SOU student arrested in Chabad Jewish Center vandalism; another cited

A series of stills taken from security camera footage show a man appearing to throw something at the Chabad Jewish Center in Ashland on Dec. 14, 2023.
January 19, 2024

Security video captured image of person hurling eggs at Ashland synagogue while yelling ‘Heil Hitler!’

By Nick Morgan, Rogue Valley Times

Ashland police arrested one former Southern Oregon University student and cited another in connection with the vandalism last month at Chabad Jewish Center in Ashland.

Zachary Ryan Pugsley Demarest, 18, of Corvallis was arrested on misdemeanor charges of bias crime and disorderly conduct Friday and Jacob Wilhelm, 18, of Blackfoot, Idaho, was cited on similar charges in a Dec. 14, 2023, egging of the Jewish community center that Ashland police say included the yelling of at least one antisemitic epithet.

Police say that Demarest is the primary suspect in the vandalism, and he was captured on surveillance video throwing eggs and yelling, “Heil Hitler,” according to a release issued by Ashland police Friday.

Last month, Ashland police posted surveillance stills of the vandalism on its official Facebook page asking for information. The footage showed two male suspects and one female, and according to the updated release police, were able to identify the suspects “almost immediately.” 

The two suspects were SOU students at the time the crime was committed, but they left the area after winter break and are no longer enrolled. Police say they identified the third individual but did not name her because she was not charged with a crime.

Police say SOU officials cooperated and assisted in the investigation.

Demarest turned himself in to Ashland police Friday, where he was arrested on charges of second-degree bias crime and third-degree criminal mischief. 

He was booked into the jail on the two misdemeanors, and jail records showed him in the process of being released as of 3:39 p.m. Friday. Charges have not been filed yet in Jackson County Circuit Court, records show.

Wilhelm was cited on the same misdemeanor charges Friday accusing him of encouraging Demarest in the crime. He was ordered to appear in court Feb. 7.

On Nov. 20, small zip-seal baggies containing sand, a website address and the words “It’s the Jews” were discovered on sidewalks and driveways in a number of Rogue Valley communities, including Ashland.

Southern Oregon University issued a statement Friday about the arrest of one former student and the citing of another. “We want the community to know that antisemitic activities are counter to who we are as an institution, the tolerance that we emphasize, and the inclusive nature that is part of our DNA,” SOU President Rick Bailey said.

Every SOU student is subject to the university’s Student Code of Conduct, Rights, and Responsibilities, the release added, which provides expectations and standards for the SOU community.

“We expect our community members to observe the principles of mutual respect, personal and academic integrity, civil discourse and responsible decision-making,” Bailey said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rv-times.com or 458-488-2036. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times. It has been updated here with additional information about Southern Oregon University’s response and a prior antisemitic incident.

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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