Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes

Confrontation Leads to Violence When Man Drives Car into Family of Eight

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Residents of Haverstraw, NY are in shock after a man plows into a family of eight outside a local 7-Eleven. The father and six children were all injured, while the mother received fatal injuries and died after being taken to the hospital.

Witness testimony recounts that the incident began a few moments before with an argument. 35-year-old Jason Mendez, the driver of the vehicle, was asked to not smoke near the children by their father. This appeared to anger Mendez, leading to a verbal confrontation with the children’s 32-year-old father.

After losing his temper, Mendez reportedly got into his vehicle, which was parked in front of the 7-Eleven. He then drove his vehicle directly at the family. After the initial strike, Mendez backed up approximately 20 feet, then drove forward into the family a second time.

Mendez remained on the scene, sitting in his car until police arrived. He brandished a knife as he sat in the car, refusing to drop the knife or exit the vehicle as instructed. Mendez was tased by officers and removed from the vehicle by force. He was arrested and faces charges for second-degree murder and seven attempted second-degree murder counts. Though the investigation is ongoing, Haverstraw Police posted to Facebook saying, “The investigation is still ongoing and it is anticipated that several additional charges will be filed.”

32-year-old Melissa Castillo DeLoatch was a mother of six, three from a previous relationship. Sadly, Melissa was also pregnant with her seventh child when attacked.

The children ranged in age from 11 months to 10 years old. The youngest three children and their father were the most seriously injured in the attack. The four were taken to Westchester Medical Center, all with non-life-threatening, yet serious injuries. The older children were taken to the closest local hospital where they were treated for lesser injuries.

According to reports, Melissa jumped between the car and the stroller in an effort to protect the younger children. Joan Christopher, Melissa’s mother, said her daughter was a hero because of her sacrifice for the children.

Family and friends have come together in response to Melissa’s death. A GoFundMe account has been started, reportedly by Melissa’s cousin, to raise money for the family.

Shawn DeLoatch, Melissa’s husband, also took to Facebook to express his grief and anger. “Killer u killed my wife lover best friend mother of my 6 kids my world. i f–king hate u.”

At his arraignment, Mendez pled not guilty to the charges against him. He is still held at Rockland County Jail.

 

Attack on Jussie Smollett Opens Investigations into Potential Hate Crimes

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Investigations are under way in the attack of Jussie Smollett, star of Fox’s Empire, Tuesday morning. According to authorities, this could be associated with a letter that was sent to Fox studios on January 22nd. The letter carried threating messages towards Smollett, as well as a white, powdered substance, believed to be Tylenol.

The attack on Smollett happened in downtown Chicago, while Smollett was making a trip to a nearby Subway restaurant. According to Smollett, two men attacked him. During the attack, Smollett told police the attackers were yelling “MAGA country.” According to Smollett, they beat him, then poured some sort of chemical on him, believed to be bleach, then proceeded to put a rope around his neck.

Video surveillance from the Subway shows Smollett inside, but does not show the attackers, nor do street cameras.

When police arrived, they found Smollett with the rope still on his neck. He was taken to Northwester Memorial Hospital for examination and treatment. The police have stated that this case will be seriously investigated and approached as a hate crime. FBI investigations into the threatening letter sent to Fox, are hoped to yield further evidence as to the identity of the attackers.

As part of their statement, the police department said, “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline. The victim is fully cooperating with investigators and we ask anyone with information about this incident to contact Area Central Detectives at 312-747-8382 or report it anonymously to www.cpdtip.com.”

Members of the cast of Empire were stunned to find out about Smollett’s attack. This was further compounded when they learned of the letter that had been sent to the studio. According to Terrence Howard, Smollett’s co-star, security at Fox Studios has been increased, offering the cast, individual, round-the-clock security. “It was offered up today that we could have 24-hour security. Someone parked in front of our house during the evening, someone to drive us, or to follow us to and from work.” Howard said during a Good Morning America interview.

Howard went on to say that without Fox’s support, personal security would be costly. “It makes it hard for people not to want to think about going and just getting a license to carry a concealed weapon because it would be much cheaper, but then what does that say about our country?” Howard added.

Lee Daniels, creator of Empire, made an Instagram video to address Smollett’s attack. He decried that Smollett didn’t deserve something like this, especially having a noose put around his neck, which no one deserves. Daniels became emotional during the video, pleading for those watching to just love each other no matter who or what they are.

A statement from Fox was released addressing the apparent homophobic and racial attack against Smollett, “We are deeply saddened and outraged to learn that a member of our EMPIRE family, Jussie Smollett, was viciously attacked last night. We send our love to Jussie, who is resilient and strong, and we will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice. The entire studio, network and production stand united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”

MLK Day Racial Altercation in Miami May Result in Hate Crime Charges

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In Florida, 51-year-old Mark Allen Bartlett, has been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon illegally. The arrest occurred in Miami after Bartlett had an altercation with attendants of the “Bikes Up, Guns Down” event in Brickell on January 21st, Martin Luther King Day.

Though Bartlett has been charged already, prosecutors are pursuing more charges, as they investigate possible hate crime charges against Bartlett. His actions during the encounter have led prosecutors to believe he crossed the line.

According to prosecution reports, various videos were captured by a group of attendants during the confrontation. The group involved is a group of activists known as the Dream Defenders. In the videos, a woman is heard complaining to bicyclists that they are impeding street traffic and that a bike had run over her foot.

Further video shows Bartlett appearing on the scene carrying a handgun and calling out racial slurs and obscenities to the cyclists at the event. There were children and young adults in attendance.

Police were called and Bartlett was located later in the day and arrested around 6:30 that evening. He asked officers, “Why am I being arrested when those kids are free to ride around?” He told officers that while he did take out his gun, he never pointed the gun at anyone.

Members of the Dream Defenders found the charge against Bartlett laughable and nothing more than a mild reprimand. They took to social media to voice their outcry and chagrin.

Based on what she saw in the videos and from eyewitness testimony gathered, Florida State Attorney Katherine Rundle decided to order an investigation of the case by hate crime investigators. She offered a statement and said, “I am outraged at the reported acts depicted in the videos taken during this incident. I am committed to filing the appropriate charges and to vigorously prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”

The cycling event in Brickell is not unusual. Dream Defenders said this was a protest/demonstration to draw attention to the lack of affordable housing in Miami. This is part of a large tradition in Miami, known as “Wheels up, Guns Down.” It is a sister demonstration to one held in Philadelphia in response to an African-American biker’s death. During the event, young black men ride ATVs, dirt bikes and bicycles on the streets of Miami on Martin Luther King Day.

The group accosted by Bartlett, comprised of children ranging from 11-18 years of age, have sought counsel from Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney, with the goal of making sure hate crimes are charged. According to Merritt’s liaison, the children involved have been emotionally impacted, having trouble with sleeping and feeling safe in the community.