Bystander or Hate Crime Victim?
One man, aged just 22 years old, was killed while defending his friends and relatives, according to People Magazine. The incident began in Lake Worth, Florida in a restaurant when the defendant allegedly began intimidating the victim and the group of friends he was with because they were gay. According to witnesses, the defendant said, “If we were in my country, I’d kill all of you like rats” and “I hate you damned gays.” The defendant, who told police that he had consumed 15 to 20 beers at that point, continued making derogatory comments until the group left the restaurant. He followed his targets outside, where the 22-year-old continued to defend his friends and family members. However, he paid with his life after the defendant allegedly shot the 22-year-old, who had pushed the defendant’s intended target, his cousin, out of the way to take the bullet himself. A bystander was also shot. This is yet another high profile hate crime murder of the last few months. In May, two men were killed and a third nearly killed when they attempted to defend two Muslim women from a man, who was a known white supremacist, directing insults and threats to them because of their religion, according to Salon.
What if a Bystander or Another Person is Injured, Killed, or Somehow Made the Victim?
In both of the above described cases, the original targets were not the ones that were injured or killed. Bystanders or those who intervened to offer assistance ended up being killed. Does this mean that neither of the above cases are hate crimes and that the defendant will not be charged with hate crimes? Possibly, though not necessarily. According to The Florida Uniform Crime Reporting Program defines hate crimes as committing or attempting to commit criminal acts “against a person or the property of another person or group, which in any way constitutes an expression of hatred toward the victim because of his or her personal characteristics.” Those personal characteristics include the following attributes:
- Race or color;
- Gender or gender identity;
- Ethnicity, ancestry, or national origin;
- Sexual orientation;
- Advanced age;
- Mental or physical disability; and
- Homeless status.
Hate crime is difficult to prove, though when witnesses are present to hear threats or intimidation, it does become easier. An offense can be made into a hate crime even if the defendant targeted the wrong individual. For example, if the defendant committed an offense, such as graffiting a store, because they thought the store owner was Muslim, but the store owner was Hindu, not Muslim, the defendant could still be charged with a hate crime.
Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Today for Help
If you are facing hate crime charges, you need experienced criminal defense on your side. Hate crimes can escalate the charges you are already facing and add years or decades to your prison sentence. Make no mistake, you need to contact an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney today with the law offices of the Skier Law Firm.