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A Confederate flag hangs in The Pillar, a men's co-op, across the street from the Oregon State University campus in September. A police report notes that Andrew Oswalt lives in an apartment at the The Pillar with a Confederate flag in the window. 

Police were alerted in July that Andrew Oswalt was a suspect in a racist sticker incident at a Corvallis store, six months before he was arrested, according to a police report released Thursday.

An Oregon State University student reported to police on July 29 that she recognized one of the men in surveillance photos posted to Facebook by police as her “chemistry teaching assistant, Andrew Oswalt,” according to a police officer’s affidavit in support of a search warrant, which is dated Jan. 19.

Police searched Oswalt’s apartment on that date and found matching stickers to the ones that had been put on cars at the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op on June 17, Lt. Dan Duncan said. The stickers read "Racism is a horrible disease. You catch it from n-----s."

Police arrested Oswalt on Monday on two counts of misdemeanor third-degree criminal mischief. Oswalt was booked into the Benton County Jail and released that same day on his own recognizance.

On July 18, police posted to Facebook photos from the co-op’s surveillance cameras, which showed two men walking around outside the business on June 17. The student who saw the photos and went to police said she recognized one of the men in the pictures as Oswalt “the second I saw the photos” and she was “one hundred percent” confident the man in the photo was Oswalt, according to the affidavit.

When asked why it took so long for police to apprehend Oswalt for the alleged crime, Duncan said the officer had to locate Oswalt and other possible suspects in addition to his other assigned duties. Duncan said the officer had trouble finding contact information and an address for Oswalt.

According to the search warrant report, police contacted Oswalt’s mother on Dec. 2 and learned where Oswalt lived. On Jan. 10, an officer attempted to contact Oswalt via telephone, email and in person, without success.

On Jan. 17, the officer contacted Oswalt at an intersection less than a block from Oswalt’s residence at The Pillar, 2323 NW Monroe Ave., according to the affidavit. Oswalt told the officer he had not responded to the officer’s attempts to contact him “because he had negative interactions with law enforcement,” the report states.

The officer asked Oswalt if he was responsible for putting racist flyers and the stickers on the cars at the co-op, to which “he shrugged his shoulders and said ‘ehhh,’” according to the report. When the officer said Oswalt was either responsible for it or he wasn’t, “Oswalt responded by staring at me in silence,” the affidavit states. When the officer said he felt Oswalt was not going to deny involvement in the incident but also not going to admit to being involved, Oswalt responded by saying “Seems accurate,” according to the report.

The officer photographed Oswalt and his clothing and, upon reviewing the surveillance pictures, determined Oswalt was wearing the same jacket as the suspect in the photos, the affidavit states.

In the report, the officer notes the room in which Oswalt lives at The Pillar had a Confederate flag hanging from the south-facing window and a Cascadia flag hanging from the west-facing window.

The people who had the stickers placed on their cars were members of a Corvallis group called Showing Up for Racial Justice and had been attending a meeting at the co-op. Tamara Musafia, a member of the group, said she noticed the sticker on the rear bumper of her car about six hours after leaving the co-op.

“I felt really bad because I did not share these views,” Musafia said. “I was driving around as if I was a racist.”

“I have stickers supporting Peter DeFazio, Obama, Biden and Sara Gelser,” she added. “I am a Democrat and a leftist, so this really upset me.”

Musafia said the group was meeting at the co-op to discuss a recent solidarity fair during which offensive graffiti had been chalked in Central Park, where the event was taking place. Anti-Semitic protesters also demonstrated near the park during the event.

She said she thinks the men who placed the sticker on her car knew that members of Showing Up for Racial Justice were meeting at the co-op. Musafia said she hopes Oswalt is charged with a hate crime.

“I want him to know that he greatly upset me,” Musafia said. “I come from a family of Holocaust survivors, and there’s no way I would ever be a racist.”

She said she wants people to know racism is not a joke.

“I want people to know that racism and anti-Semitism lead to violence and lead to something that has to be stopped right away,” Musafia said.

According to police, the men also placed flyers on 20 to 25 cars in the area during the meeting at the co-op. The fliers were noticed by a co-op employee, who removed them when she realized they were anti-Semitic. The flyers said, “Ever wonder how it feels to be proud of being white,” “Stop white oppression” and “The goyim are on to us … we’ll have to shut it down,” according to the police affidavit.

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Lillian Schrock covers public safety for the Gazette-Times. She may be reached at 541-758-9548 or lillian.schrock@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at @LillieSchrock. 

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