Chris Lane murder: Is a racist dimension of the crime being discounted?
The shooting of college student Chris Lane in Oklahoma is stirring a debate over what constitutes a hate crime. Racist tweets, allegedly from social media accounts of a black suspect, prompt some to ask if race was a motive in the murder.
Use of racial epithets, on the social media account of a black teenager accused in the Aug. 16 “thrill killing” of Chris Lane, a white college student from Australia, is not likely to prompt officials to treat the murder as a racial hate crime, according to early indications from local police.Skip to next paragraph
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The killing of Mr. Lane in Duncan, Okla., has drawn international attention, sparked an attempted tourist boycott, and reignited debates about easy access to guns in the US. It also comes about a month after the verdict in the racially charged Trayvon Martin murder case, which caused a stir in the black community when George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
Now, news of racist tweets allegedly by one of two black suspects in the Lane killing is causing some white Americans to murmur about how officials are classifying the crime. The offensive tweets are playing on white perceptions of a double standard when it comes to hate and violence – that the news media and prosecutors are quick to pursue evidence of white racism, but tend to ignore or discount evidence of black racism in crimes such as the Lane murder.
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Black mob attacks on whites in recent years in Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and other cities have helped to sow suspicion among some whites that police are unwilling to file hate-crime charges against black defendants, even in the face of indications that racism is involved.
The tweets in question, found on the social media accounts of suspect James Edwards by the Daily Caller website, included several race-related references. One tweet read, “90 percent of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM.” Another, referencing the Zimmerman trial, stated: “Ayeee I knocced out 5 woods since Zimmerman court! :)” The Urban Dictionary defines “wood,” or pecker-wood, as a derogatory term for white people.
Chancey Luna, who is black, is also charged in the murder. A third teen, Michael Jones, who is white, is charged with being an accessory to first-degree murder.
So far, neither local police nor the US Department of Justice has suggested that the murder was motivated by racial animosity. Indeed, the young ages of the alleged perpetrators speak more loudly about the senseless act than do Twitter epithets, the Duncan police chief said. Police say the teenagers said they shot Lane because they were “bored.”
“I don’t think there’d be any further charge,” Duncan Police Chief Dan Ford told The Daily Caller, when asked about possible hate-crime charges. “I’m not discounting the stuff that’s on there, but they do that for shock and effect.”