Canby has not experienced the looting, vandalism and property damage that have been more common in large cities during waves of protests that have swept the country for weeks, calling for police reform and the end of systemic racism and violence toward people of color.
Cody Westphal, a local middle school history teacher and resident of The Dahlia downtown, wasn’t quite so lucky. His car was vandalized Saturday night, an act he believes to be aligned with the recent protests due to it being a decommissioned police vehicle, which still bears the traditional black and white color scheme.
Westphal has not been driving much since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, he admits, with teachers working from home (and now, on summer break). But he still goes for a walk most every morning, and that’s when he saw it.
“The first thing I saw was a traffic cone lying on top of my car,” he said. “I thought that was odd. Then I noticed there were other things on top of it, and a Pilot soda cup under my windshield wipers.”
“Other things,” like a bag of trash, which had been partially emptied on top of the vehicle, with most of it falling to the sidewalk. The car had been doused in soda. One tire had been slit and was mostly deflated. More trash was dumped inside the car because the doors were unlocked.
It didn’t take long for Westphal to connect the dots.
“It was pretty instant that I made the connection between the current movement and how my car might appear,” he said. “I had a few moments of frustration before I imagined the bigger picture.”
Westphal purchased the vehicle while completing his student teaching for his master’s degree at Baker Prairie Middle School. He was in need of a cheap ride and noticed a 2010 Dodge Charger with only 80,000 miles that was flying under the radar at an auction in Junction City. He managed to snag it for just $2,500.
The car has proved to be popular with students — most of the time, anyway.
“It’s been a huge hit,” he said. “I still occasionally find notes or other silly things they left on it — my favorite example being when a student put a ‘Warning: Student Driver’ magnet on the back and I drove around for a few days without even noticing!”
And it’s not only kids who have mistaken it for a police vehicle. One time, someone in front of him at the Dutch Bros. drive-thru paid for his drink, telling the barista they wanted to thank him for his service.
“I felt pretty guilty about that, but it sure made for a funny story,” he said.
As for what happened Saturday, Westphal took it in stride. He actually supports the movement and what protesters are fighting for — even if he doesn’t believe vandalism or property damage is the best way to accomplish their goals.
“I honestly wasn’t upset,” he said. “A huge portion of the nation is hurting right now. They’re hurting badly. And it’s basic human nature to act irrationally when people are upset, hurting and in pain. I got caught in the crossfire — that’s all.”
He said it didn’t take long to clean up. And a parent of one of his students, who heard about what happened from a post by Westphal on the local Facebook group Canby Now, stopped by to leave him a much nicer surprise in his glovebox: enough cash to replace the damaged tire.
“As a broke teacher needing to replace a tire, that gesture said a ton to me about how generous and caring the Canby community can be,” he said.
Update: And there’s more. After this story was published, another resident contacted a local detailing company and offered to cover the expenses for any other damage related to the incident. The company contacted Westphal, and they are working out the details.
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