With the media focused on the sensational story of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's apparent hate crime hoax, it is worth remembering that real hate crimes do exist in America that are not faked.
Following up on our Tuesday morning story about the FBI's hate crime statistics report, the FBI provided me with a list of 15 hate crimes involving a murder that purportedly occurred during 2017. Those 15 were a small subset of the more than 8,000 hate crimes that occurred in America in calendar year 2017. These cases were chosen because they all involve murders that were (apparently) committed due to the race or ethnicity of the victim. None of them received even one-tenth of the attention that Jussie Smollett has.
I was able to verify the details of nine of these murders either through local media or with the police department who reported them to the FBI. Here are their stories.
It is also worth noting that I was not able to verify the other six hate crime murders that appeared on the FBI's report. In fact, at least two of the police departments (so far) confirmed to me that the murders, while real, were included on the hate crime report by mistake. I am waiting for confirmation from the other four police departments, but they also appear to be included on the report by mistake. Those cases — and what they mean for the reliability of the FBI's report — will be the subject of the final installment in this series.
1. March 14, 2017 — Washington County, Indiana.
On this date, a disturbed 29-year-old individual named Joshua Risinger set fire to the mobile home in which Jeffery Givan lived, burning him alive. Under questioning from police, Risinger said that he had set fire to the trailer in order to exorcise a demon that lived there.
After starting the fire, Risinger took Givan's cane and broke his phone so that he could not call for help, thus ensuring that he would die in the fire.
During the course of investigation, detectives were able to elicit from Risinger that Givan may have made a sexual pass at him, and that the demon in question was Givan's homosexuality. Risinger told detectives, "He wanted to touch me. … He wanted me to follow him and do what he wanted me to do … I didn't go to that point. … He just wanted me to be a f*****, excuse my language. … He tried to make me the gay one. … He basically wanted me to follow his directions completely, but I kept pulling back from him."
In December 2018, a jury found Risinger to be guilty, but mentally ill, in the arson death of Givan.
2. March 20, 2017 — New York, New York
A white supremacist named James Jackson approached a 66-year-old black man named Timothy Caughman, who was collecting cans for recycling, and stabbed him to death with a sword.
Jackson apparently selected Caughman at random because he was black and confessed to police that he had killed Caughman because he believed black people were "inferior" and should be "exterminated."
Jackson had a lengthy history of racist statements in his social media history and featured neo-Nazi propaganda on his YouTube channel. However, he was described by his parents as having been raised in a "tolerant, liberal" household and apparently voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
Jackson pleaded guilty to Caughman's murder in January 2019.
3., 4., and 5. April 18, 2017 — Fresno, California
According to police, a black man named Kori Ali Muhammad, who was already wanted in connection with the shooting death of a Motel 6 security guard five days earlier, went on a shooting rampage in Fresno that police say was motivated by racial hatred of white people. Muhammad then allegedly fired 16 rounds in less than two minutes, killing three white people he chose apparently at random. The victims did not have any connection to Muhammad whatsoever.
Although Muhammad yelled "Allahu Akbar" as he surrendered to the police, police determined that his crimes were motivated by hatred for white people generally, rather than by any sort of Islamic terror motive. Muhammad's social media history was replete with expressions of hatred for white people and the government generally.
During numerous court hearings after his arrest, Muhammad shouted numerous references to reparations for slavery, along with various statements like "Let black people go." Muhammad's defense team made numerous attempts to have him declared incompetent for trial, which were ultimately rejected. His trial is scheduled to begin on May 13, 2019.
6. May 3, 2017 — Arlington, Texas
A former veteran named James Jones stepped into the Zona Caliente Sports Bar and began "incoherently" shouting racist epithets, according to multiple witnesses. The bar's manager, Cesar Perez, attempted to calm Jones, whereupon Jones fatally shot him.
Fortunately, a concealed-carry permit holder was present at the scene and shot Jones, preventing the situation from becoming much worse. Police described Jones as having been "armed to the teeth" and apparently ready to carry out a mass murder before the good Samaritan's intervention.
Due to Jones' death, however, more information about his motives has proven difficult for police to uncover.
7. May 20, 2017 — College Park, Maryland
According to police, a white student named Sean Christopher Urbanski approached a black Army Lieutenant named Richard Collins and said, "Step left, step left, if you know what's best for you." Collins replied "No," whereupon Urbanski fatally stabbed him in the chest.
Police later determined that Urbanski was a member of a white supremacist group on Facebook that regularly posted disparaging material about black people. State prosecutors also found evidence from searching through Urbanski's phone that they say proved he harbored racist beliefs about black people.
Federal authorities decided Wednesday not to pursue federal hate crime charges; however, Urbanski still faces both murder and hate crime charges in Maryland. Urbanski's trial on those charges is currently scheduled for July 2019.
8. June 23, 2017 — Seattle, Washington
According to police, a black man with a history of mental illness named Leon Caril II approached a white person named Andrew Dean Pimentel at a Dick's Drive In and stabbed him.
Witnesses told police that Caril became agitated at the crowd outside Dick's and began shouting and throwing things at them. When a bottle landed near one of Pimentel's friends, Pimentel's friend told Caril, "That's a good way to get your ass kicked." Caril then responded, "I'll show you ass kicked!" and charged across the street and fatally stabbed Pimentel in the chest three times.
When investigators interrogated Caril about the incident, he reportedly told them, "F*** whitey ... take me to jail, I am ready for my 50 years."
Pimentel was a former police officer. Caril was charged with murder in Pimentel's death. The current disposition of Caril's legal case is not available from news reports.
9. Sept. 24, 2017 — Nashville, Tennessee
According to police, a Sudanese native named Emanuel Kidega Samson opened fire inside the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, killing a woman named Melanie Crow and wounding seven others. A 22-year-old usher named Robert Engle confronted Samson, and during a violent struggle, shot Samson in the chest. He then went to his car to retrieve his own gun, and held it on Samson until the police arrived.
According to police, Samson quickly confessed to the shooting, and claimed that his actions were a retaliation for the 2015 Charleston Church shooting perpetrated by white supremacist Dylann Roof. Samson pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. His trial date has not been set.