An Oregon man and his girlfriend accused of intentionally running down a black teen after an altercation in a convenience store parking lot face new hate crime charges for targeting the victim because of his race, authorities and court records say.
Russell Orlando Courtier, 38, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of first- and second-degree intimidation in the death of Larnell Malik Bruce, according to court documents. Colleen Hunt, 35, who was in the passenger seat, pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree intimidation, the documents show.
Under Oregon law, a charge of intimidation means the defendants are accused of acting based on their perception of the victim’s race, color, religion or disability.
The two had previously pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the death of 19-year-old Bruce, of Vancouver, Washington.
Last month, The Portland Mercury raised questions about Courtier’s possible affiliation with a white supremacist group after finding pictures on his Facebook page that show him with a tattoo of “EK,” which stands for European Kindred. At the time, authorities had not charged him or Hunt with a hate crime, but were investigating.
In a statement Tuesday, Gresham police said the defendants’ “clear ties” to a white supremacist gang were initially not enough to charge them with a hate crime.
Additional investigation, including more witness interviews and input from experts on white supremacy gangs, led a grand jury to re-indict the couple Monday.
Attorneys for Courtier and Hunt did not return phone calls Tuesday.
According to court documents, Bruce and Courtier got into a verbal fight that turned physical outside a Gresham 7-Eleven on Aug. 10. Bruce was armed with a machete.
It still isn’t clear what the two were fighting about, but moments later Courtier jumped in his 1991 Jeep Wrangler and chased down Bruce as the teen ducked and wove through the parking lot on foot, according to an affidavit for probable cause. Surveillance video shows the Jeep turn around rapidly and accelerate toward Bruce as he tries to flee.
The video did not capture the moment Bruce was struck, the affidavit said, but an officer responding to the scene found him unconscious on the ground with blood streaming from his head and ears. The officer also spotted a red Jeep speeding away.
Hunt shouted “Get him, baby, get him” during the fight, but has denied any involvement in Bruce’s death, according to court papers.
Bruce died three days after the incident.