I’m occasionally sent links to odd alcohol-related stories from around the U.S. And this week I received just such a tip from a colleague in Portland, Oregon – a city with the phrase “Keep Portland Weird” emblazoned on many billboards, buildings and bumpers in the metro area. While the story didn’t happen in Portland itself, it happened close enough that I’m willing to count it. And it certainly is weird.
On April 6, a young man in Eugene, Oregon (about 100 miles south of Portland and the home of the University of Oregon) entered two separate bars. This gentleman, who was carrying a sidearm at the time, informed staff at each establishment that he was an officer for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and in each case demanded to see OLCC records for the bar’s employees.
But of course this fellow, Marshall Nicholas Hladun, age 27, was not an OLCC officer. He was just a guy with a gun and a weird idea.
After being alerted to the occurrence by the bars, the OLCC conducted an investigation – with the aid of law enforcement – and apprehended Mr. Hladun. He was initially charged with felony coercion, attempted coercion and unlawful possession of a firearm. Those charges were subsequently reduced to “criminal impersonation of a public servant.”
So why did Mr. Hladun do all this?
According to press reports, neither the OLCC nor the police have identified a motive for his actions. He gained access to areas of the bars that weren’t available to the general public, and he obtained information about employees at the bars – but why?
My own speculation (and it is simply that) is that Mr. Hladun may have taken the friendly flirtation of one or more members of the staff for something indicative of actual romantic interest. And being the sort of person (i.e., possibly unhinged) who might make that mistake, he set about trying to get the phone numbers or other contact information for said employees. This is, obviously, pure conjecture. But what other motives might there be? If he was seeking opportunities for identity theft, there must certainly have been easier ways of going about it. And if he was looking to play pretend-law enforcement, why would he pick a plain-clothes agent for the OLCC?
In all seriousness, Oregon police are using this as an opportunity to remind the public that any OLCC officer will be carrying appropriate identification and you should ask to see that identification before providing any purported officer with access to your facility or information.
The same generally holds true for all government employees. So before you start answering questions from that suspiciously young-looking person who claims to be from the TTB (or your state liquor agency – or any other government employee – like the guy with the Indian accent who sounds like he’s calling you from a boiler room but who claims to be from the IRS) – do some homework and make sure there isn’t something screwy going on.
In the meantime, Portland – you need to step up your weirdness. Eugene is gaining on you.