When police first came to the home of Thomas A. Jakmauh to question him about two severed deer heads dumped on two Lake Oswego lawns, the 19-year-old initially denied any responsibility.
Jakmauh said he had been deer hunting at Saddle Mountain days earlier and had returned to a friend’s house with the deer heads to cut off the antlers.
He claimed he had discarded the remnants in the trash at the home of his friend’s mother, though she had asked that they not be left there.
“So did you throw them in her trash anyway?” a detective asked, according to a transcript of the interview obtained Tuesday by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
“Yeah,” Jakmauh responded.
Only when Officer James R. Euscher pressed, telling the teen he didn’t think that he was being “100 % honest right now,” did Jakmauh gradually admit his involvement, the transcript reveals.
“I agree,” Jakmauh told the officer. “My only question is what trouble would I be in?”
People walking by had discovered the grisly remains and reported that they had been discarded outside two Lake Oswego homes on Greentree Road near Biden/Harris campaign and Black Lives Matter signs.
Someone had deposited them late on Oct. 28 – less than a week before the divisive presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Neighborhood residents decried the acts as hate crimes during a community vigil, and the Lake Oswego City Council and school district issued separate statements, calling out the deer head discoveries as “acts of intimidation” that won’t be tolerated.
On the front stoop of Jakmauh’s Lake Oswego home shortly after 9 a.m. on Nov. 3, Detective Vaughn Bechtel advised the young man that police were investigating illegal littering “at the least.”
But, the detective told Jakmauh, if police didn’t get cooperation and “people want to play hardball, then the DA will probably throw every crime they can think of at it,” according to the transcript.
Jakmauh’s stance immediately changed.
“It was me,” he told police.
“I-I-I put the deer heads out in front of the Joe Biden signs. I did not put it in front of the Black Lives Matter sign. … It may have been next to the Black Lives Matter sign, but it was meant to be in front of the, uh- uh, Biden Harris signs.”
He soon admitted he had “too many drinks” the night before the deer heads were found and called it “just a really stupid decision.”
He dumped them late Oct. 28 on two private properties as he was driving to drop off his friend at home on Greentree Circle, which veers off of Greentree Road in Lake Oswego, police learned, according to police reports.
The friend had advised Jakmauh not to do it, the two told police, according to the reports.
Jakmauh said it was all his idea, according to his interview.
He said he left the deer heads by the Biden signs because “I just don’t like Joe Biden” and didn’t expect the outrage it prompted.
“I really was not thinking straight,” he said. “I woke up the next morning and I felt bad. I knew somethin’ was gonna happen from this.”
He also said he had told his mother a couple of days later what he had done.
“And what’d she say?” the officer asked.
According to Jakmauh, at first “she chuckled” and “thought it was a little funny,” he responded, according to the transcript. “Then she was pretty upset with me.”
‘IT WAS … A STUPID DECISION’
Lake Oswego police received the first report of a deer head at Greentree Road and Campus Way at 9:19 a.m. that Thursday from a resident walking a dog.
Officer Dan Phillips found the head at the southeast corner of the intersection next to a Biden sign. A Black Lives Matter sign was also posted in the home’s yard, the reports said.
The top of the deer’s skull was sawed in a V-shape and its brains were “strung out from the skull and laying on the grass,” the officer’s report said. Next to the head was a white garbage bag with a small amount of blood on it, according to the report.
The officer wrote that it was deer-hunting season and he assumed a hunter had discarded the remains in the garbage but that a coyote or a raccoon had removed them. He took the remains to a large dumpster at a city maintenance facility, he wrote in his report.
At 12:26 p.m. that day, another officer was sent to a second deer head found within a foot of a Black Lives Matter sign in the 2700 block of Greentree Road, about a half mile away from the other location.
When he heard the call dispatched, Phillips also went to the site and saw the head was sawed in the same way as the first one.
Police took photos of the second head “now that it was a possible bias incident,” according to the police reports.
A passerby had found the second head and the homeowner told police he believed the placement amounted to a deliberate act of hate, according to police reports.
Asked why he picked the two houses, Jakmauh said, “Those were the first Biden signs I saw,” while acknowledging that “it may have been next to” a Black Lives Matter sign.
“It was honestly just a really stupid decision,” he added.
SENTENCED TO PROBATION
Jakmauh apologized to the victims before he was sentenced last week to one year of probation.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, in Clackamas County Circuit Court.
He also must complete 40 hours of community service by August.
One other count of disorderly conduct and two counts of offensive littering were dismissed.
His community service is to be completed in Lake Oswego, where he lives. The judge did not specify what type of service he must do.
Jakmauh also was ordered to pay a probation fee and fine totaling $460.
As part of the negotiated plea before Circuit Judge Thomas J. Rastetter, Jakmauh also must successfully complete a diversion program in Benton County from an unrelated charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants that he received days later.
On Nov. 1, Oregon State Police stopped and charged Jakmauh with drunken driving after pulling him over at 12:45 a.m. in Corvallis, according to court records.
On Nov. 2, Lake Oswego police received tips through text messages, suggesting Jakmauh was responsible for the dumped deer heads.
One text message included a photo that appeared to be of Jakmauh holding a deer head by one of its antlers, according to the police reports.
‘DIVIDING OUR COMMUNITY’
Jakmauh appeared by phone for his sentencing hearing.
His attorney, Daniel Clark Armstrong, declined comment Tuesday.
Kathleen “Peggy” Lant, who lives at the corner where the first deer head was found, attended Jakmauh’s sentencing and said she’s extremely disappointed in the outcome.
Since Jakmauh’s arrest, she said she’s been dismayed that the charges of littering and disorderly conduct didn’t reflect the magnitude of what she considered a hate crime.
She called the actions a “real threat” and doesn’t buy that the deer head dump was meant only as a political statement, noting the second deer head was left right beside a Black Lives Matter sign.
“As a victim, I can affirm that my first reaction when the police came to my house and told me that my Black Lives Matter sign and my Biden-Harris sign had been targeted was profound silence borne of shock and confusion,” she wrote to the court.
“I knew that something was not right here. What Mr. Jakmauh had done was racist, violent, and threatening.”
She also wrote that “when we call something out for what it actually is, we begin to engage in prevention, never allowing this to happen again to anyone in our community. But when we hide behind coded language and intentionally fail to charge this conduct as bias, we lay the groundwork for this to happen again and again, dividing our community further and telling white supremacists there is room for their hate in Clackamas County.”
She urged that Jakmauh’s community service work be done with a group focused on refugees, migrant farmworkers or Black youths.
She also suggested he attend the Lake Oswego-based Respond to Racism community group that meets monthly.
“He disrupted the order of human decency, of kindness of fairness and he needs to make some efforts to bring it back,” Lant said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s utterly shameful what happened.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Bryan J. Brock said he understood Lant’s concerns but that little evidence existed to support the elements of a bias crime.
He said there were no witnesses to the dumping. Police canvassed homes in the neighborhood but found no surveillance video that might have captured the acts, according to police reports.
The case rested on the tip that led to Jakmauh’s eventual confession, Brock said.
There was no indication that Jakmauh knew who lived in the homes where the deer heads were tossed, he said.
“It was a 19-year-old who made a stupid mistake and ended up taking responsibility for it,” Brock said.