One of the four black people allegedly chased by a white man with a gun Wednesday at a beach in Kalama said he was shocked over the terrifying event, partly because he’d never experienced deadly threats there, or throughout his entire life living in Vancouver.
“We were pretty shook up, just checking each other out once we got back to a friend’s house,” Nehemiah Polk-Rasheed, 20, said. “We decided to leave and come back home.”
A Kalama man is facing harassment allegations after Cowlitz County sheriff’s deputies say he fired a shotgun and threatened the four Vancouver residents at the beach near Tidewater Drive.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office arrested Dean A. Schrader, 76, and served a search warrant Thursday on his residence, according to a press release. Deputies recovered a shotgun believed to have been used in the confrontation.
A woman who answered The Columbian’s call to a phone number associated with Schrader directed questions to Vancouver-based defense attorney Tom Carley, who declined to comment on the pending case.
Polk-Rasheed said he, his girlfriend and two other friends were visiting another friend in the area when they decided to go to a nearby beach with a good view of the Columbia River. He said it was a spot he’d been to before.
The group was taking in the view when a woman approached them and asked why they were there, Polk-Rasheed said.
“She seemed like she was being accusatory, which was confusing because we visit all the time. She said, ‘Don’t let my parents see you,’ and chuckled before walking off,” Polk-Rasheed said.
About 10 minutes later, the group found itself confronted by a man armed with a shotgun, said Cowlitz Deputy Craig Murray, who interviewed the group Thursday.
The man was standing in the bushes when he pointed a gun and said something to the effect of, “It’s a good day to die,” Polk-Rasheed said.
He told his friends to run, which they all did, and the man continued to pursue them in a red truck, from which he fired his weapon several times, Polk-Rasheed said. They ran about 100 yards on gravel and over railroad tracks. Polk-Rasheed said he thinks their pursuer was unable to get over the tracks, so the chase ended.
Schrader reportedly told deputies the group had trespassed through his property to access the river, and he fired a shot in the air after they fled; he admitted that he did not tell the group they had been trespassing, according to the sheriff’s office.
Cowlitz Chief Criminal Deputy Troy Brightbill said in an email that the public has access to the river up to the high-tide mark. However, people aren’t allowed to trespass across private property to get there, he said.
The investigating deputy noted that the large parcels in the area lacked clear boundaries and were not posted as no-trespassing areas.
The group was aware the access to the beach was through someone’s property, but there’s a trail that people frequently use to get there, Polk-Rasheed said.
“The implication we got was, ‘We don’t like black people.’ He was abusing his authority as a white person,” Polk-Rasheed said.
NAACP Vancouver said it has been in contact with the families of the victims and is providing support as needed.
Schrader was booked into the Cowlitz County Jail on suspicion of four counts of felony harassment.