Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Not a Hate Crime?

The story appeared in the New York Times.

Were the colors reversed and the attacker white, 1) this story would be getting national coverage 2) it would be referred to as a hate crime in newspaper reports 3) hate crime charges would be filed and 4) nobody would be going out of their way to make excuses for the attacker like the New York Times has done.

Armed with three pistols, a 31-inch sword and kerosene, a gunman unleashed a furious swirl of violence on an East Village street early yesterday, shooting three people and holding patrons of a crowded wine bar hostage before being shot and wounded by police officers who stormed in, the authorities said.

The gunman was identified as Steven Johnson, 34, a black man who has AIDS and who, the police said, told investigators he was bent on killing as many white people as he could.

The NYT followed up today with a story that details several excuses for Johnson's behavior, including the fact that his wife died, he was on drugs, he had AIDS himself, and he was depressed.

Law enforcement officials said drugs appeared to play a part in the explosion of violence. "He is a lifetime drug abuser and criminal for 20 years," one official said, adding that Mr. Johnson's arrest record dates back to 1982.

Mr. Johnson was once a sought-after barber in Williamsburg. But Luis Marrero, a barbershop owner, said that in recent years he refused to hire Mr. Johnson because he appeared to have been using crack.

In addition to dealing with the death of his girlfriend, the mother of his 10-year-old son, in March, Mr. Johnson has AIDS and may have learned this only recently, the authorities said. But no one could account for the rampage the police said he took part in, or for the comments witnesses reported him making, that he wanted to kill as many white people as he could. Half a dozen people who have known him over the past 20 years said that as far as they knew, Mr. Johnson, who is black, had not expressed anger toward whites.