November 27, 2022

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‘I choose not to live in fear’: Portland coffee shop bounces back after targeted attack over police event

4 min read

An ugly, dark feeling gnawed at Loretta Guzman’s stomach when she went to bed on Oct. 4. Negative comments had poured in on social media as soon as she posted that she would host Coffee with a Cop the next day at her North Portland coffee shop.

She prayed and went to sleep.

Surveillance video shows six people outside Bison Coffee House around 2:47 a.m. Oct. 5, 2022.
(Video courtesy of Loretta Guzman)

By 2:47 a.m., six masked vandals had smashed her windows and sprayed paint throughout her entire store.

“There’s certain people that really would like to keep us all divided,” Guzman told Fox News, noting the boarded up windows in downtown Portland, skyrocketing crime and ever-present vandalism. “But I think that people are ready for a change.”

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Evidence of the crime is still obvious three weeks later. White paint dots the sidewalk and splashes across the arborvitae outside. The front windows of Bison Coffee House are covered in plywood, adorned with paintings of a bison and a salmon. Seating is outdoor only as Guzman continues to repaint the walls and clean furniture and the bison head that looks out over the dining room is a testament to her Shoshone and Bannock heritage.

The windows at Bison Coffee House are boarded up after a group of people vandalized the shop Oct. 5, 2022, in Portland.

The windows at Bison Coffee House are boarded up after a group of people vandalized the shop Oct. 5, 2022, in Portland.
(Fox News Digital/Hannah Ray Lambert)

“The Bannock people, they were bison hunters. So this is who we are,” she said, looking up at the now plastic-wrapped bison head. “I felt like I needed to have a bison in order to be the Bison Coffee House.”

Guzman said she had hosted Coffee with a Cop at least twice in the past, around 2016. Events perceived as sympathetic to police have become verboten in the city since then, after the historic 2020 riots.

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But Guzman said she’s heard frequent complaints from her customers about crime in Portland and the lack of police presence. She thought it was time for citizens and officers to have a chance to talk.

She invited community members and longtime friends like Michael Fesser, who founded the nonprofit Going Home II, which mentors men as they transition to post-prison life. He said he would be happy to bring members of his organization to the event.

“When you’ve changed, you want to bridge that gap between police and the community,” Fesser said.

Guzman got a very different reaction when she finally posted the event on Bison Coffee House’s Instagram.

“This is appalling,” one commenter wrote. Others flooded the page with “ACAB,” calls to “do better,” or simply, “Yikes.”

Vandals smashed windows and sprayed paint throughout Loretta Guzman's coffee shop Oct. 5, 2022, in Portland.

Vandals smashed windows and sprayed paint throughout Loretta Guzman’s coffee shop Oct. 5, 2022, in Portland.
(Photos courtesy of Loretta Guzman)

Guzman’s phone rang in the middle of the night. One of the coffee shop’s neighbors saw a group smash the windows and yelled at them. The entire attack lasted less than a minute.

Glass was still falling when Guzman arrived. She stood next to a police officer, taking in the damage numbly. On the phone, Fesser told her she had to go on with the event.

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“If some folks think that breaking windows and trying to use a scare tactic for someone that is so positive in the community—that’s not going to work,” Fesser told Fox News.

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That morning, Guzman received an outpouring of help. From the first officer on scene, to Guzman’s family and friends, to strangers walking by on the street, everyone pitched in to clean up the mess before the 8 a.m. event. 

“There’s so many good people out there,” Guzman said with a wide smile, adding that people from across the country have called or written to express their support.

Fesser said the vandals don’t understand the value of healing the divide between community and police.

“It’s just been so bad over these last few years,” he said. “They just need to come and have a conversation instead of doing it violently.”

Guzman isn’t shaken by the attack on her shop. She was diagnosed with stage four cancer in her 30s, beat it and went on to create a successful business.

Bison Coffee House owner Loretta Guzman serves coffee Oct. 21, 2022, at her shop in North Portland.

Bison Coffee House owner Loretta Guzman serves coffee Oct. 21, 2022, at her shop in North Portland.
(Fox News Digital/Hannah Ray Lambert)

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“I faced a lot of stuff in my life, and I’ve already faced death,” she said. “I choose not to live in a life of fear.”

And business was booming on a drizzly day in late October, with a line of people waiting outside the window to order, undeterred by the rain.

“Yeah, I still got busted windows. Yeah, my shop is not together inside,” Guzman said. “But the support of the community and of the people have been way bigger than what they did to me.”

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