Russell Courtier, the 40-year-old man found guilty of murdering 19-year-old Larnell Bruce with a car in 2016, has been sentenced to life in prison by a Multnomah County judge. That means Courtier, who is already serving an unrelated four-year sentence for a bar fight, won't be eligible for parole for 30 years.
Courtier, an admitted member of the white supremacist group European Kindred (EK), was convicted in March for first-degree murder, failure to perform duties of a driver, and second-degree intimidation (Oregon's hate crime charge).
The trial centered on a fight between Courtier and Bruce that took place outside a Gresham 7-Eleven. Video surveillance showed Courtier, wearing a hat emblazoned with "EK," get into a brief altercation with Bruce in front of the store, and then return to a Jeep owned by his then-girlfriend Colleen Hunt (Hunt was sitting in the passenger seat at the time). Courtier then drove directly at Bruce, with Hunt cheering him on, according to witness testimony. Bruce tried to run out of the Jeep's path, but was ultimately hit and left for dead by Courtier and Hunt in the middle of an adjacent road.
"[Courtier] hunted Larnell Bruce," said Multnomah County prosecutor David Hannon, speaking during Tuesday morning's sentencing hearing. "The defendant made the conscious decision not just to kill, but to kill and leave Bruce there in that street."
Before asking Judge Jerry Hodson to deliver a 28-year sentence for Courtier's combined convictions, Hannon let both of Bruce's parents and his biological mother share personal impact statements with the court and Courtier, who sat in a blue prison uniform between his attorneys. Hunt, who's pled guilty of first-degree manslaughter
, will be sentenced Tuesday afternoon., was sentenced to 10 years in prison later Tuesday afternoon.
"I started raising my son same age that he died, 19 years old," said Bruce's mother, Natasha Bruce. "From the minute he was put in my arms, he never left my side. Think of what you took from me. You took a son who would give me grandchildren. You took a son that would change my tire. You took a son that would help me when I’m elderly."
Natasha said that Bruce's organs have been donated to five different people, and are expected to greatly improve their lives. She also noted that Bruce's death inspired her family to create a nonprofit to advocate for victims of hate crimes like her son.
"I think we as men are responsible for our actions," said Bruce's father, Darnell Bruce, Sr., speaking directly to Courtier. "You didn’t just ruin my life, you ruined your own. You have a son.... Your family should mean more to you than this ideology."
Darnell Sr. said that since his own son's death, he'd spent time thinking about anger, especially the kind that drives men like Courtier to actively hate an entire race of people.
"I refuse to hate the whole white race for what you've done," he said. "What you did was bigger than us. The ideology you have is bigger than us. This world doesn’t belong to anyone, we all have the right to be here."
Courtier began crying when Bruce's biological mother, Christina Miles, told him how "disgusted and angry" she was with him.
"We all will never be blessed with his smile. You took that life from us," said Miles. "He wanted to be loved, he wanted to be understood, and you took it upon yourself to take that from him."
More than a dozen of Bruce's close friends and family attended the hearing, muffling sobs while listening to his parents speak.
Courtier's defense attorney John Robb said he advised Courtier against speaking on Tuesday. Robb asked Hodson to allow his client to be eligible for release in just 23 years, explaining how Courtier's history with substance abuse and ADHD contributed to his criminal inclinations. Robb said that the US and Oregon criminal justice system is in the process of reforming its rehabilitation standards, and allowing Courtier's punishment to be reconsidered earlier would give him a chance to benefit from those potentially fairer standards.
"The prison system we have in Oregon is a very violent, racially charged place," said Robb. "There's a lot of hope right now in terms of how how we can re-evaluate how we incarcerate people. [Courtier's sentence] needs to be put into context as to what our communities will be doing with prisoners and the criminal justice system twenty to thirty years from now."
Hodson ultimately sided with the state, tacking 28 years onto Courtier's current 4-year sentence, of which he's halfway through serving.
Before granting his sentence, Hodson went over the steps Courtier took to hurt and ultimately, kill, Bruce.
"Those acts have forever changed the lives of others... his family and friends, and community," Hodson said. "The sentence I impose today will never make them whole."