No new updates from Grays Harbor County as the hunt for a murderer is on. Jimmy Smith-Kramer was run over & the driver fled. pic.twitter.com/q4uTCcJ1fM— Jon Humbert (@jonhumbert) May 30, 2017
On May 27, 2017, a group of Quinault tribal members were celebrating the 20th birthday of their community's basketball legend, Jimmy Smith-Kramer at Donkey Creek Campground near Hoquiam, Washington, when a white truck came upon them.
A confrontation ensued and the driver, James Walker, who is white, intentionally backed up towards the group, running over two men, killing Smith-Kramer.
At the time, the Quinault Nation released a statement, saying witnesses reported hearing the driver yell “racial slurs and war whoops,” however, investigators did not find any evidence suggesting it was a hate crime.
Walker was charged with manslaughter but not hate crime. During the trial, he claimed to be "part Cherokee." But the final decision came after Katie Svoboda, the Grays Harbor County prosecutor, argued hate could not be a motivation for the crime because Walker and his victim did not know each other.
ProPublica, which has been following the case closely, stated Svoboda's reasoning goes against their findings that suggest a "vast majority" of such cases "involve people previously unknown to each other."
2/ Since we launched @DocumentHate, we’ve received dozens of tips from Native Americans who claim they were victims of racial harassment.— ProPublica (@ProPublica) April 26, 2018
Several of those tips were about the death of Jimmy Smith-Kramer.https://t.co/rZxsDjAEmY
Smith-Kramer was a father of twin toddlers. He was also a star basketball player in his community.
"He was an all-league basketball player for the regional-qualifying Chitwhins in his senior year and was named to the all-Washington state 1B first team as a guard," The Spokesman-Review reports.
Although hate crimes against Native Americans have been on the rise, most go unreported and rarely grab headlines. The FBI recorded around 4,200 hate crimes in 2015, 3.4 percent of them targeted Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The figure is worrying because the community makes up for only one percent of the entire American population.
And the figures could be higher, because, as stated earlier, most hate crimes against Native Americans go unreported.
Barbara Perry, author of “Silent Victims: Hate Crimes Against Native Americans, explained Voice of America: “The reasons include a sense that they won't be taken seriously, that they may in fact suffer secondary victimization, harassment or verbal abuse from law enforcement."
A November 2017 poll found over half of Native Americans living on tribal lands or other areas where they are a majority experienced racial or ethnic discrimination during interactions with the police.
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