Colorado man who stabbed Black man pleads guilty to federal hate crime

“This crime serves as a horrifying reminder that racism and bigotry still exist and threaten the safety of communities of color."

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A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime with the intent to kill for stabbing a Black man while he was applying for a job at a fast-food restaurant in Ontario, Oregon. 

According to court documents, Nolan Levi Strauss, 27, entered an Arby’s restaurant in Ontario on Dec. 21, 2019, where he saw the victim sitting in a booth by himself. The man was waiting to meet with the manager to provide documents for a pending job application, as reported by KATU.

Strauss approached the man from behind and stabbed him twice in the neck in what prosecutors said was an unprovoked attack.

A tussle ensued between Strauss and the victim, who tried to grab the knife and blocked Strauss from stabbing him again. He managed to break free from Stauss’s grip and ran to the other side of the eatery before collapsing, documents said.

A maintenance worker reportedly intervened and used a belt to secure Strauss’s hands behind his back until police arrived. When the worker asked Strauss why he stabbed the victim, he replied, “Because he was Black, and I don’t like Black people.”

Nolan Levi Strauss. September 17, 2020 (Malheur County Jail)

The stabbing victim suffered two lacerations to his neck and was airlifted to a hospital in Boise, Idaho, 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.

“Racially motivated acts of violence must not be tolerated in our country today. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to ensure that individuals who commit bias-motivated crimes are brought to justice for their actions.”  

Strauss admitted he was trying to kill the man due to his blind hatred for Black people. He pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge with an attempt to kill and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“This crime serves as a horrifying reminder that racism and bigotry still exist and threaten the safety of communities of color,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug for the District of Oregon. “Hate crimes not only hurt victims, but spread fear across entire communities. 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.”

Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, said: “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. We should all draw strength from our diversity and work together to protect our neighbors.”

Strauss’s sentencing date is set for Sept. 9. 

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