Instead, it was forgiveness.
“You’re a good kid,” Candace Hall, 55, told Frederick Jr., she recalled to The Washington Post. “Made a bad choice.”
Judge Diane Druzinski told the Halls she was in “awe” of them, praising their “strength, wisdom and forgiveness,” according to the Macomb Daily News. “I wish I was as good as people as you.”
Frederick Jr. echoed the judge as he expressed remorse, telling the family, “I think you guys are some great people and didn’t deserve this at all.”
The Halls’ journey grappling with the aftermath of a hate crime in Warren, Michigan’s third-largest city, has drawn praise in the community, where rapidly shifting demographics, a racist past and deep political divisions have fueled tensions.
The Halls hope their response shows healing and unity are possible.
“We’re going for a restoration, not just of the building, but of our hearts and spirits,” Candace Hall said. “And that includes restoring him as well.”
‘It felt like we were being hunted’
For the Halls, who are Black, their Christian faith made forgiveness less something to grapple with and more a foregone conclusion. What was harder to overcome were the sadness, hurt and fear that took hold after the first night Frederick Jr. targeted their home, shooting at their parked cars.
“If it was a one-day event, I thought, ‘Maybe it was some kid playing,’ ” said Candace Hall, who initially clocked the gunshots as fireworks. “But he came back three times. It felt like we were being hunted.”
Two days later, a rock sailed through a window, shattering the glass near a sofa where their granddaughter often relaxed, they told Fox 2 Detroit.
Outside, Eddie Hall found tires on several of their vehicles were slashed, the air still hissing out. His pickup truck was vandalized with graffiti reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Terrorist” and a swastika sandwiched between the words, “not welcome.”
The following night, a shot was fired into their living room window, piercing the sign of a Black fist with the words Black Lives Matter.
“The one word I can come up with was ‘horrific,’ when you don’t know why someone is attacking you or where it’s coming from,” Candace Hall said. The family briefly moved into a hotel, fearing for their safety. For three weeks, until Frederick Jr. was caught, Candace Hall said she was constantly looking over her shoulder, even at the grocery store.
Frederick Jr. lived two blocks away from the Halls, but they didn’t know each other.
The Halls, both Army veterans and longtime members of their church, couldn’t fathom the hate directed at them.
Police would later find that several days after targeting the Halls, Frederick Jr. vandalized the garage of a White neighbor who had signs on their home supporting Democratic candidates, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Before the court issued a restraining order against Frederick Jr., his father, Michael Frederick Sr., and an ex-wife went to the Halls to talk to them, bringing a third neighbor, “just in case we were going to be angry,” Candace Hall said. “And we were like, ‘We aren’t mad at you.’ ”
She didn’t know it at the time, but police later said Frederick Sr. helped cover up the crime, trying to disassemble and dispose of a gun his son used in the shooting. Frederick Sr. pleaded no contest and was also sentenced Monday to time served and ordered to pay restitution. Candace Hall said her response wouldn’t have changed.
“We just saw hurting people, so we prayed with them,” she said.
Searching for forgiveness
Community members and officials agree the conciliatory tone of the trial was overwhelmingly because of the Halls’ generosity, but opinion diverges on what the incident says about overall attitudes in the quickly changing city of Warren.
Warren was once a “sundown town” that resisted housing integration well into the 1970s. The area has shifted from a nearly all-White enclave 30 years ago to a diverse community with growing Black and Asian populations, according to the recent Census population estimate.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts (D) stood with the Halls at a news conference last year condemning the attacks. He told The Post the hate crime doesn’t reflect Warren’s values.
“We want the message to go out that someone who would do a crime like this isn’t welcome, and we’ll find you and arrest you,” he said. He praised the police’s diligence in the case and said “it let’s people of diversity know we’re here to protect you.”
Even Frederick Jr. denied racism, saying in several court appearances his actions were motivated by politics. “This wasn’t about the color of anyone’s skin,” he said at an October hearing.
But Rhonda Powell, who directs statewide operations for We The People Michigan, a nonprofit that organizes multiracial coalitions for issues such as housing, jobs and civil rights, said the city still needs to confront its past and present political and racial realities.
“We can’t start to heal if we haven’t discussed the past,” she said.
Powell isn’t alone in her assessment that Warren hasn’t truly changed: In July, a judge ruled that a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the city can go forward.
The spectrum of ideologies in Warren was on display last fall when community groups organized a march in support of the Halls only to be confronted by a Back the Blue rally where several supporters carried pro-Trump flags.
“What does Trump have to do with this … because of what happened to us, why are you here doing that? If anything we should be supporting each other,” Eddie Hall told the Detroit News at the time.
Candace Hall said that while Frederick Jr.’s trial is over, her family’s story and his are not finished. She plans to invite his family to church and wants to keep in touch with him as he serves his prison sentence.
“If he finds God in this, that was the purpose of all this,” she said.
To Candace Hall, forgiveness and love can exist alongside accountability. She scrapped a prepared statement Monday because her daughter suggested it sounded “angry,” which is not how Hall felt.
“I took the opportunity to look in his face and let him know how it felt,” she said.
The family wanted Frederick Jr. to know how his actions affected them, but also wanted him to know they hope he could have a good life on the other side of his prison term. He will spend four to 10 years behind bars for the crime.
“I keep hearing people saying ‘I could never do that.’ Yes you can,” Hall said. “Our world is doomed if we can’t find a way to forgive.”