UPDATE: The Justice Department has just opened a civil rights investigation into an apparent hate crime last weekend in Spokane involving a 66-year African-American man. “We are concerned about elements of the incident because any crime that is potentially hate-motivated is not only an attack on the victim, but threatens and intimidates an entire community,” an FBI spokeswoman tells Hatewatch.
The FBI is expected to review a hate crime in which a black man was assaulted with a handgun and called ethnic slurs before several gunshots were fired into his home in Spokane last weekend.
Two men — one variously described as a white supremacist and a skinhead — were arrested late Monday by Spokane police on state charges of assault and malicious harassment.
Jason Edward Cooper, 32, who has “white power” tattooed on his leg, and his friend, Donald Lucas “Luke” Pritchard, 36, were arraigned on the charges Tuesday in state court in Spokane.
The suspects each have more than 12 felony convictions and, therefore, couldn’t legally possess firearms. Police seized three handguns in making the arrests.
Besides federal hate crime charges, the suspects could face armed career criminal charges for illegal possession of firearms and drive-by shooting charges if authorities decide to purse a federal prosecution.
In such cases, it is not usual for federal authorities to allow state prosecutors to proceed with their cases before federal indictments are sought.
“Cooper is accused of shouting racial slurs at his neighbor, Norris Cooley, punching him in the face and pointing a gun at his head before firing rounds into Cooley’s home where several people sat inside,” The Spokesman-Review reported in today’s editions.
Cooley was cleaning out his garage late Sunday when he was accused by the two men who were at a residence next door, police said.
One witness said she heard one of the suspects call the victim a “nigger” before yelling, “White lives are the only thing that matters,” according to a court affidavit filed by police.
Two other witnesses also heard the assailants refer to the 66-year-old victim as a “nigger,” telling police that he didn’t respond or engage his attackers.
When a man working on a car at the victim’s home told the men to leave Cooley alone, one of the assailants responded, “Smile nigger, so I can see you. I might shoot you in the dark.”
A woman who lives across the street from the victim “heard things being yelled such as ‘You’re just a nigger! You don’t work! Heil the KKK! White power!’”
She did not hear her neighbor, the victim of the attack, yell or respond to the men, the police report said.
About an hour later, the neighbor heard gunshots and saw a white Isuzu Rodeo speeding away.
A woman in the home, who also heard the racist slurs being yelled, said she ducked to the floor when she heard the gunshots ring out.
“She then realized that one of the holes in the wall from the bullets lined up with where she had been sitting and that she would have been shot if she had not gotten down,” the police report said.