A white Oregon couple already charged with murder in the death of a black teenager are facing new hate crime charges.
Russell Courtier, who is associated with a white supremacist group operating within Oregon prisons, and his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, are now accused of mowing down Larnell Bruce outside a convenience store last month because he was black.
Courtier, 38, and Hunt, 35, were charged with murder and failure to perform duties of a driver to injured persons after a grand jury indicted them last month. They were re-indicted Monday.
According to the indictment, Courtier and Hunt intentionally harmed Bruce “because of their perception” of the 19-year-old’s “race and color.”
Under Oregon’s hate crime statute, defendants can be charged with intimidation if they harm someone because of that person’s race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
Bruce was killed Aug. 10 outside a 7-Eleven in Gresham, east of Portland.
Courtier intentionally ran over Bruce with his red Jeep Wrangler, while Hunt, who was in the passenger seat, encouraged her boyfriend to do so, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Surveillance video showed Courtier and Bruce, 19, getting into a fight in the parking lot, the affidavit said. At some point, Bruce pulled out a machete before walking away.
Courtier then hopped into his vehicle and drove toward Bruce, following him as the teen ran into oncoming traffic, then onto a sidewalk, the affidavit said.
“Get him baby, get him baby,” Hunt told Courtier, according to the affidavit.
Witnesses told police that Courtier narrowly missed striking Bruce with the vehicle. But he circled around and chased the teen again, according to the affidavit.
Courtier told detectives that he intentionally struck Bruce and that he heard the impact when the teen hit the front of his Jeep, the affidavit said. Bruce suffered a traumatic brain injury and died at a hospital three days later.
Courtier’s attorney, Kami White, did not return a call from The Washington Post.
Hunt’s attorney, Jonathan Sarre, said he isn’t especially concerned about the additional intimidation charge because it isn’t the most serious crime his client is facing. Sarre declined to comment further.
If convicted of murder, Courtier and Hunt could face life imprisonment.
After being re-indicted, each now faces a first-degree intimidation charge, a Class C felony that carries up to five years in prison. Courtier is facing an additional second-degree intimidation charge, punishable by up to a year in prison.
Courtier’s criminal history stretches back to at least 2001. Betty Bernt, spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Corrections, said he had been in and out of prison for assault and weapon charges. He was released in January 2015.
Courtier pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first- and second-degree intimidation, the Associated Press reported. Hunt pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree intimidation. The couple previously pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.
Records obtained by the Portland Mercury indicate that while in prison, Courtier identified as a member of the European Kindred, a group described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the most feared white supremacist gang in the Pacific Northwest.”
At one point, he was caught in prison with a drawing of the group’s logo, a shield with the letters “EK” on it, according to Courtier’s disciplinary records. Later, he was disciplined for getting the logo tattooed on his calf.
In 2005, he was again punished after prison staff intercepted a letter he sent to another European Kindred member in prison.
The Oregon Department of Justice considers the gang a security threat group operating within the state’s prison system, along with the Supreme White Aryan Knights and Aryan Soldiers.
David Kennedy, a known white supremacist, founded European Kindred in 1998, while he was serving time for burglary in the Snake River Correctional Institute in Ontario, Ore., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has at least 300 members in prison and about 125 on the streets of Portland and surrounding cities and towns.
Courtier and Hunt are being held without bail.