A woman stands in front of a line of police officers.
Illustration by Cathryn Virginia

An Oregon Woman Says a Police Officer Raped Her. She Was the One Arrested.

“I was stalked and raped by officer Christopher Drumm, but because of the job I hold, I’m the one facing charges.”
April 29, 2021, 4:00pm

Jay St. James is something of an anomaly in lily-white Eugene, Oregon. The Black political organizer and licensed nurse was always open about her status as a sex worker, and had been active in the community since she arrived in 2015. (“St. James” is the last name she uses for activism and sex work; her legal name is being withheld to protect her family’s privacy.) In 2019, she held training events on filing public records requests and also helped craft a community-funded policy platform that advocates for voting and housing justice, among a range of other issues. Chief of Police Chris Skinner knows her by name. But St. James said that on May 24, 2020, five years after she moved to Eugene, she was stalked and raped by Christopher Drumm, a police officer in the city’s police department’s patrol unit.

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St. James also claims that after the attack, she and her family were harassed by other members of the Eugene Police Department. No charges have been brought against Drumm—but St. James is now facing charges of her own after protesting her assault. 

No charges have been brought against Drumm—but St. James is now facing charges of her own after protesting her assault.

“The system doesn’t view me as a victim,” said St. James. “[They see me as] a mess. I’m a problem … I was stalked and raped by officer Christopher Drumm, but because of the job I hold, I’m the one facing charges.”

St. James first met Drumm roughly three days before the alleged rape, when Drumm responded to a domestic violence call at St. James’s house. That night, she said, a former romantic partner threw a beer bottle at her head and threatened to burn the house down.

Although St. James wasn’t sure of the exact date of their first meeting, since she said she wasn’t sleeping in the days leading up to the alleged assault and many of her interactions with Drumm took place late at night or early in the morning, VICE News obtained records from CAHOOTS, Eugene’s community intervention program, that confirm a dispute occurred at St. James’s home on May 22. St. James’s ex-partner also corroborated her account of a heated disagreement which prompted her to place the call to CAHOOTS, though he denied the abuse allegations.

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St. James requested a mental health professional, but a group of uniformed police officers, all of whom were white, showed up at her house instead. The CAHOOTS report confirms that Eugene police officers were sent to the house, but does not specify how many. Her ex-partner remembered a total of four officers, and specifically remembered Christopher Drumm.

Immediately, St. James said, she felt like the focus of the investigation. “All of the officers were really hostile with me as the victim.” She said the officers declined to make a report or file a statement about the abuse, which lines up with the results of a VICE News records request: In a direct contradiction to the CAHOOTS logs, the Eugene Police said they could not find an incident report at St. James’s residence on May 22, although a Child Protective Services (CPS) report was issued because her children were present and the officers, according to ST. James, found exposed wiring in her basement. (Oregon Child Protective Services declined VICE News’s records request for the report.)

Instead of addressing her domestic violence allegations, St. James said, Drumm and his colleagues sexually harassed her. St. James’s ex-partner wasn’t removed from her home, and she said she was told she couldn’t ask him to leave for the night. When Drumm told her he wasn’t filing a report, St. James said that he told her, “What am I going to write down? That this guy should be smashing that ass instead of smashing bottles?” 

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St. James told Sara Urzua, her Civil Liberties Defense Union-trained legal observer, about the interaction the next day, including the comment about the beer bottles. Urzua said that St. James described all of these interactions in a conversation the following morning. “Officers harassed Jay after that,” said Urzua. “[They were] coming up with what I believe to be trumped-up charges, threatening to take Jay’s kids away. I personally feel like—and this is my opinion—this was an intimidation tactic,” she said. “I’m a mandatory reporter. I’m a caregiver. If I had seen anything that I thought was unsafe with those children, I would have said something. That is my legal obligation, and I have seen absolutely nothing,” Urzua added.

St. James added that throughout the night, the officers made comments about her body and joked about the age difference in her relationship with her ex-partner, who is 20 years older than her. She said that Drumm told her that she “didn’t have to have sex with him,” an unprompted comment that she claimed he made over and over. 

“He then stalked me for three days and raped me.”

When the other officers finally left that first night, St. James said, she found Drumm in her yard with her dog. “He then stalked me for three days and raped me,” St. James told VICE News.  

For the next three days, St. James said that Drumm continued to show up at her house unannounced. “He brought his car over. He answered a call on his radio once when he was in my house,” she said. Concerned by Drumm’s behavior, St. James told her ex-partner about the officer’s continued presence at her house. 

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On May 24, St. James said, Drumm returned to her house at night. Phone records viewed by VICE News indicate that Drumm called her at 9:32 pm. The call went to voicemail and a caller whose voice St. James said she recognized as Drumm’s left a message from Drumm’s number and said, “Jay, what’s up? Hit me up later.” St. James said that Drumm then showed up unexpectedly and insisted on seeing her bedroom. She thought he was investigating her, and eventually brought him to a guest bedroom. Then, St. James said, Drumm approached her from behind and raped her twice. 

In response to St. James’s allegations, Christopher Drumm referred all comments to his lawyer. When asked for his lawyer’s name, he said he couldn’t remember and would provide that information later. After multiple follow-ups from VICE News asking for his lawyer’s name, he finally said, “I don’t want to talk to you guys. Never contact me again.” Drumm’s lawyer, Michael Staropoli, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Skinner's office declined to comment as well, except to add that according to their knowledge, parts of the story were inaccurate. They refused to specify which, if any, of St. James’s allegations they were refuting.

About two hours after the alleged attack, St. James texted Urzua. “When the cop Chris came back tonight between calls, he kept his gear on him and asked for a blowjob while his service piece was unlatched,” St. James wrote. “Going to bed for real. Just hyper processing everything happening.”

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Urzua, who had been documenting St. James’s attempts to file a restraining order against her partner, came to the house the following day. Urzua said that St. James told her that she had been assaulted, and she described St. James’s demeanor as alternately “shaking, frozen in fear, sobbing, and losing her train of thought” when she recounted the events of the previous night. “I’ve seen this before,” said Urzua. “I know what trauma and shock look like. These are phases I’ve seen her go through.” St. James also talked to her friend Ashley Chase that day. According to Chase, St. James told her she had been raped and seemed “dissociated.”

St. James said she reported the rape on May 28, the same date Chase said she brought her to the police to report it. According to the Oregon Department of Public Safety and Standards, the following day, Drumm was placed on a leave of absence. According to a personnel form from the Eugene Police Department, he resigned from the force on June 10.

Several weeks later, on July 15, St. James gathered with a group of protesters outside the Eugene Police Department headquarters. She didn’t know if Drumm was still on the force and wanted accountability.  But at the protest, police officers arrested St. James. She now faces felony rioting charges, although eyewitness accounts dispute the police’s version of events. Lane County prosecutor Chris Parosa confirmed that St. James was charged with felony riot, interfering with a peace officer, criminal mischief in the second degree, and resisting arrest.

She now faces felony rioting charges, although eyewitness accounts dispute the police’s version of events.

Two different recordings of the event show a small gathering of protesters in front of the station. The most extensive footage doesn’t show St. James’s face. The camera is trained on her tennis shoes while she shouts into the megaphone, and people walk back and forth in front of the camera as she’s speaking. While accounts of what happened that day vary, videos of the event depict St. James shouting into a megaphone in front of the station, demanding to know whether Drumm was still active on the force and accusing other members of the department of harassing her children. “I had a megaphone, and I was using words,” said St. James.

She had decided to protest the day before when she saw what she thought were unmarked police cars parked outside of her close friend’s house where her children were staying. Wayne Johnson, one of  St. James’s acquaintances, saw photos of the cars posted on Facebook and called the non-emergency police hotline to ask about them; he said that the responder confirmed that the cars were from the police department’s street crimes unit and were not in the neighborhood responding to a call. When asked about this allegation, Skinner declined to comment.

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When St. James went to the station to protest, she was joined by a group of roughly 10 other people—a few of them friends, a few of them community members who had read about her assault allegation on Facebook. 

Videos of the event depict St. James pacing around the front door of the empty precinct with a megaphone. “My children’s lives are not safe,” she said at one point in the video. “Repeatedly, the Eugene Police Department has shown up at my children’s home.” Although she announced that an officer involved in the investigation had called to tell her Drumm resigned, she said she didn’t know if it was true. “[Eugene Police Department] has not made any statement acknowledging that; the city has not made any statement acknowledging that; we have no proof of that until we demand proof of that,” she told the crowd.

According to Johnson, who observed the protest but did not participate, the event was peaceful until St. James or another protestor pulled a string of blue lights off of a wall next to the station. “That’s when the police basically stormed that group of people. Probably 20, 30 cops in riot gear storming out, tackled her, hit everyone to the ground around them,” he said. Johnson said he wasn’t able to tell who had grabbed the lights amid all the people. St. James denies pulling the blue lights off the wall of the station. “I didn’t touch anything,” she said. “I was in front of a line of people. There’s no videos of me touching anything. There’s no photos of me touching anything. I didn’t touch anything.” 

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The photos of St. James at the protest show her near the front steps of the police station, roughly 15 feet from where the lights hang. “I didn’t touch the lights. That’s something I’d be proud to claim had I done it,” she said, “But I can’t take credit for it.” (A public records request for information about the incident was denied, with the police department citing an “open court case.”) 

Photos and videos of the incident show St. James lying on the ground, hogtied and surrounded by officers. Johnson said he saw three officers sit on St. James’s body. 

Photos and videos of the incident show St. James lying on the ground, hogtied and surrounded by officers.

When she was arrested, St. James said she was separated from the other protesters and held in a cell away from view. Her booking was also not processed until the following day; while a VICE News public records request about the incident was denied, arrest records do indicate that she was booked on July 16, the day after the protest. 

On September 3, St. James’s security release agreement was revoked by a judge, meaning that she was ordered to return to Eugene and await her trial in jail. At the time, wildfires were ravaging the West Coast. The Lane County Jail, where St. James would be held, was 11 miles from an uncontained wildfire that had already killed one person. St. James had left the state a few weeks earlier, fearing for her and her children’s safety. On November 10, a judge granted her pretrial release and permission to leave the state.

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Drumm has not been arrested. On July 20, five days after the protest and weeks after the fact, the Eugene Police Department issued a statement that an officer had resigned due to “concerning” contact with a woman. While the statement doesn’t mention St. James by name, the information echoes the exact timeline of her assault allegations.

Eugene District Attorney Patricia Perlow declined to comment, but St. James said that a grand jury already attempted to convene without her testimony and when her lawyer objected, the grand jury proceeding was postponed. The District Attorney’s Office of Lane County can’t confirm any information about a current or past grand jury proceeding, which is kept private unless an indictment is made. “As long as I’m free and as long as I’m vocal, [the Eugene Police Department] knows there’s a good chance I’m going to cooperate with [Christopher Drumm’s] grand jury hearing, and they don’t want me to,” said St. James.

What St. James said she experienced is far from unique. A Bowling Green State University study found that roughly 1,100 police officers are arrested in the U.S. per year, or about three per day. Of those arrests, forcible fondling and sexual assault comprised the fourth- and fifth-most common charges, respectively, with sexual assault making up 4.8% of officer arrests. Additionally, a Women & Health study found the one in five sexual assaults reported in a U.S. emergency room were filed by sex workers. 

In November 2019, long before St. James’s assault allegations, Drumm was present at the death of Eliborio Rodrigues, Jr., a Eugene resident who violated city code by walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk. Drumm helped restrain and handcuff Rodrigues while he was dying of gunshot wounds inflicted by another officer, according to official reports. District Attorney Patricia Perlow referred to that officer’s use of deadly force as “justified,” and a representative from the Interagency Deadly Force Investigative Team stated that only the officer who fired the shots was investigated. (The Eugene Police Department declined to comment on the death of Eliborio Rodrigues.)

Now, St. James isn’t optimistic about the possibility of Drumm facing justice. While Drumm walks free, St. James was arraigned on November 2 for her involvement in the July protest. She did not return to jail, and pleaded not guilty. 

While Drumm walks free, St. James was arraigned on November 2 for her involvement in the July protest.

“I don’t think Christopher Drumm is going to see criminal charges, honestly,” St. James said. “But the fact that a cop was forced to resign because there were enough people who would say the truth against him was really huge.”

Lane wrote in an email, “The criminal review of Mr. Drumm’s conduct as it pertains to Ms. [St. James], is still under review.” St. James’s case is still active, and she currently awaits trial.