The Aurora Police Department is asking for help identifying a man suspected of committing a hate crime on July 23 at a Rocket Gas Station.
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In a Facebook post on Aug. 2, the Aurora Police Department said at about 11 p.m. on July 23 a man entered the store at 1100 S. Havana St. and confronted two other customers who were speaking Spanish. He told the customers “they don’t belong here” and then followed them to their car, according to police.
The suspect then reportedly pulled out a gas nozzle and sprayed the victims with gasoline, said Sgt. Faith Goodrich, a public information officer for the police department.
He then allegedly “looked for a lighter to try and light them on fire” but could not find one, or did not have one, and then threw a rock through the rear window of the victim’s vehicle and stole the keys to the vehicle, Goodrich said.
Goodrich said the two victims suffered minor, non-life-threatening injuries from the assault and confirmed the victims were not set aflame. The victim’s vehicle was not stolen, just the keys to the vehicle, Goodrich said.
The police department said detectives are investigating the case as a bias-motivated crime, otherwise known as a hate crime, and asked for help identifying the suspect.
The suspect is believed to be between the ages of 20 and 25 and between 5 feet, 6 inches tall and 5 feet, 9 inches tall, according to police. Goodrich said the vehicle the suspect was driving that night was a gray Dodge Charger GT with black trim, and that no plates were visible on camera.
Those who may have information can call (303) 627-1661 or email StopHate@auroragov.org. These contact lines were set up in September 2020 as a way for anyone to report a bias-motivated crime, Goodrich said.
“Those are ways that anyone can report any bias-motivated crime, and they can do so anonymously if they’re uncomfortable reporting to an officer in uniform,” Goodrich said.
Goodrich said that the department’s numbers for reported hate crimes are up, but this may be due, in part, to a Colorado law change and because of increased reporting by officers and the public.
“We’re actually glad they’re up because we feel like things are getting reported now that weren’t previously,” Goodrich said about the numbers.
From July 2021 through December 2021, there were a total of 25 reported bias-motivated crimes, according to an Aurora Police Department report. From January 2022 through June 30, there have been 23 reported crimes, 10 of which have been anti-Black crimes and two were anti-Hispanic crimes.
Goodrich also noted a change in Colorado law last year that has caused more crimes to classify as bias-motivated. Senate Bill 21-280, called “Bias-motivated Crimes,” passed in June 2021 and made it so that “bias motivation only needs to be part of the defendant's motivation in committing the crime," according to the bill.
“It used to say, to prove a bias-motivated crime, the crime had to be committed because of the bias,” Goodrich said.
For example, Goodrich said that prior to the law change, if someone robbed a store and chose that store based on the store owner’s race and used racial slurs during the robbery, the suspect could claim that the motivation for the crime was money and not racial bias. That way, the suspect would be convicted of robbery, not a bias-motivated crime.
“Now, it doesn’t matter if you did want the money from the robbery. If you also used the racial slurs, or bypassed other stores to specifically rob this place because of someone’s race or religion…you can be charged with a bias-motivated crime,” Goodrich said.
Goodrich said the police department has made efforts to educate officers about what a bias-motivated crime is and to encourage the public to report these types of crimes. The department also has dedicated one detective to work on these cases full-time, according to the police department's website.
Those interested in learning more about how the Aurora Police Department handles bias-motivated crimes can visit: bit.ly/AuroraPoliceDepartment.
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