Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

FBI engaging city on hate crimes

Training directed at community groups, law enforcemen­t


The FBI field office in Little Rock will offer classes on hate crimes to community groups and law enforcemen­t agencies following a push for awareness of crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communitie­s.

After 21-year-old Robert Long of Woodstock, Ga., was charged in the March 16 killings of eight women, six of whom were Asian, many groups began raising awareness of discrimina­tion and hate toward the Asian community in the United States.

The FBI in Little Rock is now urging the groups to register for the free course to promote cooperatio­n between law enforcemen­t agencies and communitie­s.

Special Agent Ryan Kennedy said the class speaks about similar topics to a “color of law” course offered in the wake of the death of George Floyd last May but has a new focus.

“The training itself is going to be very similar to the color of law training,” Kennedy said. “This time we’re just focusing on hate crimes instead.”

Kennedy, who teaches the course for those interested within the Arkansas field office’s jurisdicti­on, said the course will expand on hate crimes by delving deeper into the details.

“This program really expands on that,” Kennedy said. “Like with our color of law program, we get into more of the details of what is a hate crime, what is not a hate crime, what are some of the statutes that we use, our investigat­ions of hate crimes, how we conduct those investigat­ions.”

The course will begin, Kennedy said, with defining hate crimes.

“It’s a crime where somebody is targeted because of perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientatio­n or gender identity,” he said. “That at its core is what we’re looking at.”

Kennedy said class participan­ts will also learn specific statutes that the FBI uses to charge people with hate crimes.

“For instance, if it’s a church burning, then we’ll be looking at the church arson act,” Kennedy said. “If it’s a hate crime, then we can be looking at one or two different statutes there. We’ll go through each one of those statutes in detail to talk about what are the different elements that we have to meet to have a successful investigat­ion and a successful prosecutio­n.”

In cases such as a church burning, anything targeting that religion or even a subgroup within that religion could be classified as a hate crime, Kennedy said.

The statute “prohibits defacing, damaging, destroying religious property because of race, color, ethnicity or religious character,” Kennedy

said. “So the answer is yes, you could have one religious denominati­on that defaces or damages the church of another denominati­on and that can be a hate crime.”

The FBI also classifies hate crimes as what the aggressor perceives the victim to be. If someone is attacked because they are believed to be of a certain race, ethnicity, religion or other trait, that would be a hate crime against that demographi­c, even if that is not part of the victim’s actual identity, Kennedy said.

“You have a lot of that occurring all the time,” Kennedy said. “If I attack someone because I think they are of a certain race or ethnicity and they actually aren’t, that does not prevent us from looking at the case. What matters is what did the aggressor believe.”


After discussing what crimes can be pursued and how they can be prosecuted as hate crimes, Kennedy said the course will go over examples from the past of how the statutes were developed and used by authoritie­s.

“We talk about the killing of James Byrd [Jr.], the killing of Matthew Shepard and then how that led to the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crime Act,” Kennedy said.

Byrd, who was Black, was murdered in Texas in 1998 by three white men who tied him to the back of a pickup and dragged him on an asphalt road for 3 miles. Shepard, who was gay, was beaten, tortured and left to die in 1998 in Wyoming by two men. He died six days later.

“And then really we culminate the whole thing with a very short review on the Popejoy and Maybee investigat­ion, which was the first investigat­ion where those hate crime statutes were used,” Kennedy said of the FBI class. “And that investigat­ion was actually done out of the Little Rock field office.”

In 2011, Sean Popejoy and Frankie Maybee of Green Forest were sent to prison after targeting five Hispanic men who pulled into a gas station in Alpen in June 2010.

The pair followed the men out of the parking lot, threatened them with a tire iron, yelled racial epithets and rammed their truck into the victims’ car, causing them to crash.

The men barely escaped with their lives after their car burst into flames, prosecutor­s said.

“The facts of this case shock the conscience. Five men were almost killed for no reason other than the fact that they are Hispanic,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said at the time.

Kennedy said groups have already planned for the course.

“We have been reached out to by a few organizati­ons to do this training,” he said. “We’ll be doing one as early as [this] week.”


On March 19, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said Little Rock police had directed patrols at Asian businesses in the city.

Spokesman Sgt. Eric Barnes said department leadership met last week with the co-founder of the Asian American Pacific Islander Democratic Caucus of Arkansas, Joshua Price, to discuss protecting Asian American businesses in Central Arkansas.

“We had a meeting with their president and one of their very involved members just to collaborat­e and hear any concerns they may have,” Barnes said. “[It was] more or less just to build a bridge between us and make sure there’s a line of communicat­ion if we do experience any issues or any crimes like the national trend we’ve seen going on.”

Barnes said the department had not seen any activity targeting Asian or Pacific Islander communitie­s locally.

The FBI has not released its crime statistics for 2020, but in 2019, anti-Asian and anti-Hawaiian or Pacific Islander hate crimes represente­d 2.4% of all hate crimes committed, with 179 reported incidents.

Kennedy said the best thing you can do if you suspect someone of committing a hate crime in Arkansas or have witnessed such a crime is to call the FBI field office.

“The easiest way to report any kind of civil rights issue to us, which includes hate crimes, is by calling our field office at (501) 221-9100, and one of our agents will be happy to speak with anyone that calls us,” Kennedy said.

After discussing what crimes can be pursued and how they can be prosecuted as hate crimes, Kennedy said the course will go over examples from the past of how the statutes were developed and used by authoritie­s.

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