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A Florida judge is considering whether authorities should add hate crime charges against two of three men who allegedly chased a Black man into an alley and killed him.
Authorities found a 39-year-old Black man shot to death behind a dumpster at 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday, May 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. Two days later, police announced they’d arrested Ryan Christopher Nichols, 19, Daniel James DeGuardia, 18, and Holden Emery Dodson, 21, according to First Coast News.
Authorities charged Nichols with second-degree murder and altering physical evidence. Meanwhile, DeGuardia and Dodson were charged with accessory to murder after the fact.
Circuit Court Judge Kim Sadler said DeGuardia and Dodson’s charges could be upgraded to a hate crime.
“I’m not the state, it’s up to them, of course, what charges they bring,” Sadler told First Coast News. “But it was just a bunch of white guys chasing a Black guy and I didn’t see any reason for it.”
A hate crime charge would mean harsher penalties, according to Florida law. For instance, a second-degree felony would be upgraded to a first-degree felony.
The identity of the deceased Black man has not been released.
Surveillance footage of the are showed a Jeep Grand Cherokee arriving near 100 North Julia Street and parking around 2:25 a.m. Three white men exit the vehicle and begin walking. Twenty minutes later, the Black victim is seen being chased by the men as he flees behind a dumpster. Moments later, the three white men return to the jeep and speed off.
Another video near a 7-Eleven revealed the license plate of the vehicle. Authorites tracked it to alleged accomplice DeGuardia’s mother’s home. DeGuardia allegedly reported his 9mm Glock as lost that night.
According to First Coast News, authorities also reported a 36-year-old Black woman had been shot and killed. Her body was found in a vehicle in the area of Boulevard and West 22nd Street. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t believe the two homicides are related.
Anyone with information contact the Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477 (845-TIPS) to remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards. Or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida has a long history of hate crimes
The local Sheriff’s Office said that while the investigation is ongoing, there is “no information at this time” leading them to believe the attack was a hate crime. Notably, police officers around the nation are not obligated to report hate crimes to the FBI’s federal database.
Florida has a long history of hate crimes, however, in the form of racial terror lynchings.
At least 319 lynchings of Black people took place in Florida between 1877 and 1950, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative. The state accounted for the 6th highest number of racial terror lynching during that period.
In Duval County, where Jacksonville resides, EJI documented eight lynchings during that period. One county over, in St. John’s County, where the three suspects all had previous addresses, one lynching reportedly took place.
In recent years, Florida has become a hot-bed of anti-Black sentiment through the passage of laws targeting Black history and limiting the political power of Black residents. The shooting adds to a deadly toll taking place around the country.
More Americans fell victim to gun violence in 2021 (48,830) than any previous year on record, according to Pew Research Center. Guns are also the leading cause of death for children and teens, Pew found.