Two men with swastikas on their chests are in jail for allegedly attacking and threatening to kill an American Indian teenager who had been swimming with family and friends Sunday in the Spokane River near Pettet Drive.
A police spokesman said the suspected hate crime started when the tattooed men told the Indian family to “get out of our river.” A family member said they were also called a barrage of racial slurs.
The men chased the group, slashed the tires and smashed out a car window in the family’s van, according to a Spokane Police Department media release. The men then tried to run down the teenager with their own car.
The children are family members of Bonnie Joseph, the lead organizer of the annual downtown Spokane Powwow, which begins this weekend.
Spokane police arrested two men after the confrontation on a beach near the T.J. Meenach Bridge.
Andrew C. Lovelace, 24, of Spokane, and Daniel G. Wilson, 28, of Missoula, were booked into jail on three felony charges – first-degree assault with a car used as a weapon, harassment with a threat to kill, and malicious harassment with physical injury.
Officers responded to a “trouble unknown” call around 4 p.m. Sunday and found a 15-year-old Indian teen running up Pettet Drive, according to police.
The teen told police he refused to leave the river when two men with shaved heads and Nazi tattoos ordered him and his family out of the water. The men responded by rushing and punching the teenager, who then ran from the beach, according to the news release.
Joseph said her three children and two of their friends were driven to the beach by her 17-year-old niece from Montana. There were many other people in the water, Joseph said, but the men targeted her children. Joseph said she got a call at 5 p.m. Sunday from her niece who was crying and said, “Auntie, some guys are chasing us.”
After the initial confrontation, most of the family members hid in the back of their van while the men slashed the tires and stabbed at the windows with a knife, Joseph said.
“He couldn’t break the window, so they threw a rock through the back window,” Joseph said. “They were claiming to be a part of the KKK.”
According to the media release, the 15-year-old boy ran up the long hill away from the others. The men chased him in their car, passed him, turned around and drove straight at him. The boy told police he jumped onto the sidewalk. A passenger in the car opened a door in an apparent effort to hit the teen, who then rolled partway down the steep hill, according to the report. He suffered cuts and scratches.
The two suspects told police there was no confrontation.
But Joseph said people should know her family’s story. “I can’t even send my kids down to the river without being harassed and chased just because of the color of their skin.”
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