A man associated with a white supremacist prison gang is being charged with a hate crime after prosecutors say he deliberately ran over a black teenager. Russell Courtier and his girlfriend Colleen Hunt were both charged with the murder of Larnell Bruce, 19, in August; they face new hate crime enhancements, with prosecutors saying they ran Bruce down due to “their perception” of his “race and color.”
Courtier, 38, and Hunt, 35 were first indicted for murder on August 22, after police say Courtier got into a dispute with Bruce at a 7-11 in Gresham, Oregon, not far from where the two were living with Courtier’s parents. Bruce was there charging his cellphone, according to the Portland Mercury; he’d moved to town relatively recently to live with his mom and baby brother.
In a series of events that still aren’t clear, Courtier and Bruce quickly got into a fistfight outside the store. Witnesses say Hunt yelled “Get him, baby,” as Courtier punched the teenager and smashed his head into the convenience store window. When Bruce pulled out a “machete,” as police described it, Courtier and Hunt got back in their Jeep. Police say witnesses told them Bruce tried to flee as Courtier chased him with the car, trying to hit him. After he missed a first time, he circled around across multiple lanes of traffic and “intentionally struck him,” per police. Bruce collapsed at the scene, with blood coming from his nose and ears. He died two days later.
Courtier has a long criminal record, prosecutors say, including extensive ties to European Kindred, a white supremacist prison gang based in the Pacific Northwest. He’s been charged with a variety of crimes since the late ‘90s, including being a felon in possession of a firearm, supplying contraband, second-degree assault and criminal mischief. According to an affidavit, he admitted deliberately trying to hit the teen and hearing the impact as Bruce’s body hit the front of the car. Hunt, too, admitted that she urged her boyfriend to “get him,” police said.
As recently as a week ago, the incident wasn’t being charged as a hate crime. But a grand jury re-indicted the pair on Monday, adding that they acted together, and based on“their perception of the race and color of Larnell Burce [did] intentionally cause physical injury to Larnell Bruce.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center says that European Kindred was formed by a man named David Kennedy in 1998, while he was serving time for burglary, and soon spread to several other Oregon prisons. The SPLC estimates the gang has some 300 members and says they’re responsible for a variety of street-based crime, besides the prison-based kind, including running rings for methamphetamine distribution, dog-fighting and identity theft.