Investigators say that that an Oregon man accused of running over a black teen and killing him is associated with a white supremacist prison gang, the Washington Post reports.
According to the Post, police are not sure what started the fight between Russell Courtier and Larnell Bruce or why, according to authorities, Courtier chased the teen in his car and ran him over, killing him.
But investigators have revealed that Courtier, who has an extensive criminal history, is associated with the European Kindred, a prison gang the Southern Poverty Law Center has dubbed "the most feared supremacist gang in the Pacific Northwest."
According to the Post, the gang is known for its violent acts both on the street and behind bars. The Oregon Department of Justice considers the gang a security threat in its prison system.
Multnomah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Don Rees told the Post that prosecutors were looking into whether the incident was racially motivated and whether Courtier and his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt—who allegedly egged him on as he chased the teen in his vehicle—should be charged under the state's hate crime statute.
Both Courtier and Hunt are facing murder charges in the case. However, Rees told the Post that if enough evidence is compiled, the case could be brought back to the grand jury to handle charges of intimidation.
As the Post notes, under the state's hate crime statute, defendants can be charged with intimidation if they are believed to have harmed someone based on his or her race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.
“Right now we have nothing to indicate that race had anything to do with this crime; this is something we’re continuing to investigate,” Gresham Police Detective Aaron Turnage said. “They had a fight between the two of them. Courtier made some poor choices that night that resulted in the death of Mr. Bruce. This is not a hate crime at this point.”
Turnage was one of the officers who responded to the call about the car crash on Aug. 10 outside a 7-Eleven in Gresham. Surveillance footage showed Courtier and Bruce, 19, getting into a fight in the parking lot. At some point during the argument, Bruce pulled a machete before walking away from the scene.
However, Courtier then got into his red Jeep Wrangler, chasing the teen as he ran into oncoming traffic, and then onto a sidewalk, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
"Get him, baby, get him, baby," Hunt, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the Wrangler, allegedly said, egging Courtier on.
Courtier reportedly admitted to purposely hitting Bruce with the vehicle. Hunt also reportedly admitted to encouraging Courtier to run the teen over.
Bruce suffered a traumatic brain injury from the incident and died three days later.
Read more at the Washington Post.