Charges are being considered against an alleged white supremacist who is accused of murder after he ran over an African-American teen in Oregon.
According to the Huffington Post, authorities are investigating whether murder suspect Russell Courtier, 38, and his 35-year-old girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, should be charged with a hate crime in addition to the murder charge they already face in connection with the August hit-and-run that led to the death of 19-year-old Larnell Malik Bruce Jr.
“That’s currently the subject of the ongoing active investigation,” Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Don Rees told the website on Friday.
According to an affidavit posted on Scribd, the teen was charging his cellphone at a Gresham, Oregon 7-Eleven around midnight on Aug. 10, when Courtier and Hunt pulled into the parking lot in a Jeep Wrangler.
— HuffPost BlackVoices (@blackvoices) September 3, 2016
After exchanging words, Courtier and the teen got into a fistfight that led to Courtier slamming Bruce’s head in the storefront window with such force, it cracked the glass.
At some point, Bruce armed himself with a machete and forced Courtier to return to his vehicle, at which point Hunt urged Courtier to run the teen over with the vehicle.
Footage from video surveillance cameras caught Courtier chasing down Bruce with the car as he was walking away from the 7-Eleven, according to the affidavit.
“The video surveillance showed Mr. Bruce take evasive maneuvers on foot in an attempt to escape Mr. Courtier’s Jeep. The video surveillance then shows the red Jeep quickly turn around and accelerate towards Mr. Bruce.”
Javier Neri, a store clerk at the 7-Eleven, told KOIN 6 News he had just started his shift when he saw “two guys just fighting out there.”
Neri said he saw Coutier pick up a tire iron and it looked like he was going to beat Bruce with.
“Next thing I know I seen the black kid, or black guy pretty much hit the window,” Neri said.
When police arrived, they found Bruce lying on the ground, gravely injured. He died a few days later from severe brain trauma.
Courtier and Hunt were arrested shortly after the incident.
According to the affidavit, Courtier admitted getting into an altercation with Bruce.
“Mr. Courtier said he was angry the male produced a knife and thought about driving away from the scene, however [he] made a conscious decision to drive his vehicle towards and chase the black male. Mr. Courtier said he chased the black male across oncoming lanes of traffic and then intentionally struck him with the front of his vehicle.”
— VladTV (@vladtv) September 3, 2016
The decision whether to charge Courtier with a hate crime stems from his connection with the white supremacist group European Kindred, which the Southern Poverty Law Center described in 2010 as “one of the most feared white supremacist gangs in the Pacific Northwest.”
According to Rees, any decision to file hate crime-related charges against the couple will be determined if enough evidence can be found to prove the connection in court “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“In terms of a sentence, the murder charge is really the big bang. In Oregon we have mandatory sentencing in place, so if convicted of murder the defendant must receive ― it’s non-discretionary with the court ― a life sentence. Having said that, the [hate crime] angle is under investigation, but I don’t want people to have the illusion this person is getting away with anything at this point.”
Courtier and Hunt have both entered please of not guilty and are being held without bond. Their appearance in court is scheduled for Oct. 3.
[Photo courtesy Gresham Police Department]