A Colorado man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal hate crime for stabbing a Black man in the neck in an unprovoked attack at an Oregon fast-food outlet.
Nolan Levi Strauss, 27, pleaded guilty to a hate crime involving an attempt to kill, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Oregon.
On Dec. 21, 2019, the victim entered an Arby’s Restaurant and adjoining Pilot Travel Center in Ontario, Oregon, as part of a pending job application, federal prosecutors said in a news release. The victim was sitting in a booth, by himself awaiting a manager, when Strauss approached from behind.
“Suddenly, unprovoked and without warning, Strauss stabbed the man twice in the neck,” the release said. The victim broke free from Strauss and ran to the far side of the room, collapsing on the floor. A maintenance worker used a belt to secure Strauss’s hands behind his back while waiting for police.
The worker asked Strauss why he stabbed the victim, according to the release. Strauss replied: “Because he was Black, and I don’t like Black people.”
Strauss was arrested at the scene and later admitted to investigators that he tried to kill the man “because he was Black.” On the day of the stabbing the victim was flown by helicopter to a Boise, Idaho, hospital for emergency surgery.
“The defendant is being held accountable for his vicious, racially motivated attack on a Black man who was targeted because of the color of his skin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in the release. “Racially motivated acts of violence must not be tolerated in our country today.”
On Sept. 17, a federal grand jury in Eugene returned a single-count indictment charging Strauss with a hate crime involving an attempt to kill.
“This crime serves as a horrifying reminder that racism and bigotry still exist and threaten the safety of communities of color. Hate crimes not only hurt victims, but spread fear across entire communities,” said acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug for the District of Oregon. “This conviction should send a strong message that federal law enforcement will not tolerate hate-motivated acts of violence and will move swiftly to hold those responsible accountable.”
Strauss is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 9 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“Everyone deserves to go to work without fearing they will be a victim of violence because of how they look or how they live. Racist attacks like this one — powered by hate and grounded in ignorance — strike at the heart of our community,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. “We should all draw strength from our diversity and work together to protect our neighbors.”
The case was investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Ontario Police Department, Oregon State Police, and the Malheur County District Attorney’s Office.
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