In response to a violent hate crime Sunday evening in north Spokane, prominent community leaders gathered Wednesday morning to denounce racism and hate.
“As citizens of Spokane, we should be safe in our homes and not subjected to acts such as this violence,” said Phil Tyler, former president of NAACP Spokane at a news conference at the Spokane County Courthouse. “Just as we’ve seen in Charlottesville recently, these brazen behaviors are growing. We too must grow.”
Tyler was joined by Mayor David Condon, Spokane police Chief Craig Meidl, a spokeswoman for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and other leaders who all spoke out about the events Sunday when 66-year-old Norris Cooley was berated with racial slurs, punched in the face and had a gun pointed at his head. A suspect is accused of then shooting multiple rounds into a home Cooley shared with another woman and her daughter.
Tyler, who’s made public appearances in the past to speak out against hateful rhetoric, as he did when a slur was spray-painted onto the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in mid-November, and again in March when racist flyers were posted around Spokane, said the community needs to call out hate when they find it.
“Sadly, we’ve been here before,” he said. “These types of acts are meant to place fear in the minds of our citizens, our neighbors and our friends. We cannot and will not tolerate these acts. We repudiate hate.”
Condon echoed Tyler and praised the work by the Spokane Police Department in finding and arresting the two suspects, Jason Edward Cooper, 32, and Donald Lucas Prichard, 36, close to or within a day of the incident, saying that their “tireless effort” helped bring resolution.
“These acts of hate, intolerance and violence have no place in Spokane,” he said. “And we continue to show Spokane is a place that is inclusive, that really does look at its diversity as a major strength of who we are as a community.”
Meidl said acts of hate, like the one Sunday,won’t be tolerated.
“And if you decide you’re going to engage in this type of behavior, you can anticipate that the Spokane Police Department is going to pull out all the stops to bring you to justice,” he said.
In a short statement, a representative for McMorris Rodgers joined the large group at the podium to share the congresswoman’s message that “hate has no place in Eastern Washington or in the United States of America.”
Cooley, who sustained minor injuries in the assault, was not available Wednesday for comment. His housemate, Elizabeth Fisher, said Tuesday that Cooley was fairly laid back and was coping well after the attack.
Kurt Robinson, the current president of the NAACP, said during the news conference that he’d like to address the court system that failed to rehabilitate Cooper and Prichard after more than 20 felony convictions between both men.
“What are we going to do as a community to start addressing the needs of the people that we have while we have them?” he said. “So that when they are released, that hopefully they’re going to be better off from their experience. Are we going to look at this man and the other people in our system like him? That’s my hope. And that’s my vision for the future of Spokane.”