The brutal assault of two Japanese women, allegedly by an escaped inmate, prompted a blistering letter from the Japanese government to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, questioning how the Department of Corrections allowed the 14-time felon to slip away and warning of economic consequences as a result.
The letter from Consul General Masaki Shiga of the Consular Office of Japan in Portland came about two weeks after Jedaiah Lunn, 36, walked away from an inmate work crew in Washington County and, according to Shiga, beat the two women with a large stick, leaving both with critical injuries.
The incident, apparently the result of a breakdown in security, may threaten Oregon’s relationship with Japan, a longtime economic and trade partner.
The consulate’s letter was pointed and detailed potential consequences.
“We are shocked by this violence and I am deeply concerned to learn that prisoners under the control of DOC, whose mission is to promote and protect public safety, can easily escape and harm the general public,” Shiga wrote to Brown in a letter dated April 30.
Shiga’s letter described the injuries suffered by the Japanese nationals: One woman sustained a skull fracture and cerebral hemorrhaging and the other underwent four surgeries to address the complicated fracture of her arm.
About 9,000 Japanese people live in the state, the diplomat told the governor.
“In response to this incident, we will have to consider how we, the Japanese community, should think about safety in Oregon,” he wrote.
The Department of Corrections released the letter to The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday in response to a public records request.
Brown’s office on Thursday indicated the governor has not yet responded to Shiga’s letter.
A Brown spokeswoman, Liz Merah, said the governor was “deeply saddened and concerned” when she learned of the attack and that the incident “warrants a review of current administrative procedures.”
She said the corrections and forestry departments are reviewing what happened and may “potentially implement changes to ensure the program’s success in the future.”
“Oregon treasures its long relationship with Japan and its citizens who choose to visit or decide to make their lives here,” said Merah. “This state has been enriched by the many contributions of persons of Japanese descent who have called Oregon home.”
Colette Peters, director of Oregon’s prison system, released a statement to the news organization calling the attack “a terrible crime.”
She said her agency is working with investigators to “ensure the perpetrator is held accountable” and said inmates assigned to outside work crews “are thoroughly vetted.”
“Lunn made the terrible decision to assault two innocent women—forever altering their lives,” she said.
A corrections department spokeswoman on Friday said Peters is concerned that Lunn’s actions “will likely jeopardize public perception” of inmate work programs.
At the time, Lunn was serving a three-year sentence for a home invasion robbery in Multnomah County. He was convicted of second-degree robbery, a Measure 11 offense that comes with a mandatory minimum sentence.
According to court records in that case, Lunn broke into a Northeast Portland home in 2017, pointed a gun at a man and demanded money.
Court records show Lunn at the time of his arrest for the robbery had 13 prior felony convictions and one misdemeanor conviction, all property and drug crimes. According to filings in the 2017 case, he told court staff he was a daily methamphetamine user.
Lunn has not yet been charged in the attacks of the two women at the campground.
According to the Department of Corrections, Lunn was transferred to the South Fork Forest Camp in Tillamook on Oct. 13. South Fork is a minimum-security prison operated by the Department of Corrections and the Oregon Board of Forestry.
About 200 inmates who are within four years of release are housed at the camp, where they are assigned to work crews that perform forest management and disaster relief in northwest Oregon.
Lunn, according to prison records, had no disciplinary record while in prison.
On April 14, Lunn was assigned to a work crew that was dispatched to the Gales Creek Campground in the Tillamook Forest, on the western edge of Washington County.
At some point, Lunn — listed in prison records as 6′3″ and 260 pounds — allegedly left the crew and encountered the women.
Authorities said Lunn stole one of the women’s cars and fled. He was captured that night in the woods of Sauvie Island, about an hour away from the campground.
The Department of Corrections that day announced that Lunn had walked away, assaulted two women and stole their car. It did not disclose the extent of the injuries to the women.
The Department of Forestry has not yet responded to questions from The Oregonian/OregonLive, including who supervised the work crew that day and the last time Lunn was seen by a supervisor.
Department of Corrections records show he is being held at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
According to a 2014 agreement between the Department of Corrections and the Oregon Department of Forestry, a work crew “custodial supervisor” from the prison system is responsible for “maintaining custodial supervision of inmates assigned to a project.”
The Department of Corrections on Wednesday declined to say whether corrections staff was on site at the time of Lunn’s escape.
The agency also declined to say whether signs announcing the presence of inmate work crews were posted at the campground.
Shiga, the highest-ranking Japanese diplomat in Oregon, said his government worries the incident will scare Japanese people and businesses “and that they will hesitate to expand their economic activities here.”
“We also expect that many students and tourists from Japan will return to Oregon when the pandemic ends,” he told Brown.
He is also concerned about the implications for tourism, given the draw of outdoor activities for Japanese visitors.
“Many people will be disappointed and reluctant to visit Oregon if it is seen as unsafe,” he said.
Shiga went on to make three requests: support from the state for the injured women, a thorough investigation of the incident and measures to prevent “similar failures” from happening again and a public statement from the government regarding its commitment to public safety.
“In order to limit the upset within the Japanese community caused by this recent event, it would be desirable for the responsible authorities to make some statement showing their utmost commitment to ensuring the safety of public spaces in the state,” he wrote.
He asked Brown to ensure that signs announcing inmate work crews be posted on all public locations.
Matt Turner, a spokesman for the Consular Office of Japan, on Thursday declined to comment on Shiga’s letter or say whether the governor had responded. Through Turner, Shiga declined a request for an interview.
“The most important thing, the only important thing for us, is the safety and welfare and the privacy of the Japanese citizens who were involved,” Turner said.
This content was originally published here.