Customer accused of attack at Iraqi restaurant in NE Portland - KPTV - FOX 12

Customer accused of attack at Iraqi restaurant in NE Portland

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The DarSalam restaurant on Northeast Alberta. (KPTV) The DarSalam restaurant on Northeast Alberta. (KPTV)
Surveillance video shows Damien Rodriguez grab a chair and throw it at an employee (Courtesy: Sahib family) Surveillance video shows Damien Rodriguez grab a chair and throw it at an employee (Courtesy: Sahib family)
Damien Rodriguez, jail booking photo (Courtesy: Multnomah County Jail) Damien Rodriguez, jail booking photo (Courtesy: Multnomah County Jail)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

The owners of an Iraqi restaurant in northeast Portland tell Fox 12 they’re in shock after a customer was caught on camera hitting an employee over the head with a chair, and they believe the attack was racially or culturally motivated.

It happened Friday night at DarSalam on Northeast Alberta near Northeast 30th.

Owners Ghaith and Tiffany Sahib have owned the restaurant for six years and have never had any problems.

They weren’t there Friday night, but heard from witnesses that the trouble started outside when the two men were walking by.

“They looked up and saw our sign, and it says Iraqi food on our sign, and they were yelling some profanities about Iraq and Arabic people, Middle Easterners, so from before they walked in our door they were already intoxicated, they were already angry,” Tiffany Sahib said. “They were looking for a fight.”

Inside, the two men sat for nearly an hour but never ordered food. Then, things went from bad to worse.

“There’s a verbal altercation that happens between these two guys and one of our employees who happens to be Arabic, and at one point one of the guys reaches around and grabs a chair and pulls it up and just hits it as hard as he can at our staff member, hit him over the head and the shoulder,” Tiffany added.

Luckily, the employee is okay but is pretty shaken up.

Other staff and customers are seen on the video holding the suspect until police arrived.

Damien Rodriguez was arrested and is facing charges of harassment and disorderly conduct. He pleaded not guilty in court and was released from jail after posting bail.

When reached for comment, Rodriguez directed Fox 12 to his lawyer. His lawyer said his client isn’t commenting.

According to court records, Rodriguez is from Lake Elsinore, California, and is a sergeant major in the military with family in the Portland area.

The Sahib’s said they hope their restaurant is more than a place for food and conversation; they hope it helps to break down racial or cultural stereotypes and show that Iraqi people are humans too - whatever your politics.

Ghaith Sahib survived a car bomb before deciding to leave Baghdad and come to the United States.

“When I saw the video I was really sad and shocked at the same time,” he told Fox 12. “It seems to me like a bad dream.”

Tiffany Sahib said when she met her husband nine years ago people on both sides of their family had concerns about the inter-racial relationship, but their relationship wasn’t a partnership based on politics or war – it was based solely on love.

A love they’ve been working to share ever since.

“It’s really disturbing to see someone come in and take their aggression out on us,” Tiffany said.

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