EUGENE, OR (KPTV) - A man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and illegal possession of ammunition charge on Tuesday arising from a series of threatening and violent actions targeting St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene in Sept. 2018.
Benjamin Jaramillo Hernandez, 69, of Eugene, was escorted from St. Mary Catholic Church property on on Sept 9, 2018 following an angry outburst during communion, according to court documents.
Five days later, a church employee reported to Eugene police that someone had dispensed pepper spray on the exterior door handles and through the mail slot of the St. Mary office front door.
Hernandez was identified in church surveillance footage as the person responsible for both incidents.
On Sept. 16, 2018, Hernandez was spotted near St. Mary, according to the District of Oregon U.S District Attorney’s Office. A witness saw Hernandez across the street from the church when he stopped near the Eugene Public Library and shouted at the witness.
On Sept. 20, St. Mary employees reported finding a threatening note and seven 10mm Sig hollow point bullets left in the office.
A Eugene police officer again reviewed church surveillance footage and identified Hernandez as the individual who dropped off the note and bullets.
Hernandez was arrested on Sept. 21, 2018, at the Eugene Public Library and charged with second-degree intimidation, second-degree criminal mischief and two counts of second-degree criminal trespass. During a search of Hernadez’s person, officers located a partially empty can of pepper spray, three .410 shotgun shells and thirteen 10mm Sig hollow point bullets.
Hernandez was charged by criminal information with one count each of obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs and felon in possession of ammunition.
He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 dollars for the hate crime conviction and 10 years in prison for unlawful possession of ammunition.
Hernandez will be sentenced on May 22, 2019.
Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.