The white couple indicted last month for killing Larnell Bruce, a 19-year-old African American man, with their car in Gresham have been re-indicted by a grand jury, this time with additional hate crime counts, alleging Russell Courtier, 38, and Colleen Hunt, 35, killed Bruce because of his race.
On August 22, the Mercury first exposed that Courtier, accused of fighting with and then killing Bruce outside of a 7-Eleven store on August 10, was connected to "European Kindred," a notorious prison-based white supremacist gang. We then obtained Courtier's prison disciplinary record and reported on August 31 that Courtier has been a documented member of European Kindred since at least 2004.
Since then, prosecutors sent the case against Courtier and Hunt, who was a passenger in the car and reportedly egged on Courtier, back to a grand jury. The grand jury said yesterday that Bruce's murder was racially-motivated, tacking on two additional hate crime counts — intimidation in the first degree and intimidation in the second degree — to the murder and felony driving charges. The pair were arraigned again this morning. We have reached out to the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office for comment and will update this when we get it (update #1: the prosecutor's office said they can't yet comment on it because it's an ongoing case).
Courtier and Hunt "did unlawfully, acting together and because of their perception of the race and color of Larnell Bruce intentionally cause(d) physical injury to Larnell Bruce," the indictment says. The intimidation counts won't mean any more time in prison for the pair they're if convicted of it — a murder conviction means they'd spend the rest of their life in prison, regardless — but it's at least an important symbolic acknowledgement from the authorities that, yes, they believe Courtier and Hunt murdered Bruce because of his race.
Update #2: The Gresham police department just issued a statement on the new charges:
Since the beginning, investigators have been carefully uncovering the motive in this case and report that just knowing the suspects have clear ties to a white supremacist group is not enough to definitively prove in court how or if the affiliation played into their decisions that night.
Police believe additional witnesses, including subject matter experts on white supremacy gangs, have helped answer part of the motive and highlighted the suspects' associations as one contributing factor.
Bruce's murder gained national attention after the Mercury reported Courtier's white supremacist connection, landing in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, People, the
It’s not yet known exactly what started the fight or why Courtier allegedly chose to mow Bruce down as he was running away. Authorities have yet to publicly release a motive, and witnesses at the scene told police they didn’t know of one.
What the Mercury has learned, however, is that Courtier has spent a significant chunk of his adult life in Oregon prisons for weapons and violent crimes. (He was on parole the night he killed Bruce, following a prison term for attacking a woman with a knife in 2013.) Courtier is also a long-time member of a white supremacist prison gang called European Kindred (EK).
EK began in 1998 at the Snake River Correctional Institution (SRCI) in Malheur County. Its founder, David Kennedy, wanted “to protect our own people in this joint,” the Southern Poverty Law Center quoted him as saying. The gang would soon spread to Oregon’s other prisons.
Courtier’s prison records, obtained by the Mercury in a public records request, reveal just how deeply the man came to identify with the group.
He first connected with the gang while serving several years at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton following a 2001 attack on a man, the records show. By September 2003, Courtier was caught in his cell with a drawing of the gang’s logo—a shield emblazoned with letters “EK”—that he admitted he intended to get tattooed on his body (he was found to have violated the prison’s “unauthorized organization” rule, because EK is a known “security threat group”).
In February 2004, while still in prison, Courtier was busted for getting that logo tattooed on his calf and for having a “make-shift tattoo gun” and extra ink in his cell (see that record here). Just two months later, he brawled with a black inmate in the crowded prison yard before “a group of white inmates faced off against a group of black inmates,” records show (document).
And in 2005, while at SRCI, a letter he wrote to another EK member—intercepted by prison staff—indicated he needed backup from his gang because he was “getting run up on by redskins.” (document) That year, Courtier was also accused of throwing a piece of shit-smeared paper at a guard who was a person of color, and later threatened to “take care” of him when he got out.
In total, Courtier was accused of nearly 40 “major” prison violations between 2001 and 2013—for assaults, for joining and associating with EK members, for his prison tattoos (he was busted in 2005 for tattooing “party bone” on his penis, for instance), for having contraband in his cell, for disrespect, for not following rules (see his entire DOC discipline record here).
Here's how we reported the murder:
Russell Courtier, 38, and his girlfriend Colleen Hunt, 35, pulled their red Jeep Wrangler up to the 7-Eleven on the corner of East Burnside and 188th just before midnight on August 10. The convenience store was only a few blocks from the apartment complex where the couple lived with Courtier’s parents.
Outside, a young man named Larnell Bruce, half Courtier’s age, was charging his cell phone at an outlet along the wall, a female acquaintance later told police. He had moved to Gresham to live with his mother and his young brother six months earlier.
The crossing of the two men’s paths would prove deadly.
Within moments, a full-on fistfight had ensued—the white Courtier and African American Bruce swinging at each other and wrestling.
“Get him, baby,” Hunt urged her boyfriend, “Get him, baby!”
Courtier smashed Bruce’s head into the store’s front window, cracking a pane of glass. The 7-Eleven clerk dialed 911. When Bruce pulled out what cops described as a machete, Courtier stopped fighting with his fists. Instead, he and Hunt got back in the Jeep—the weapon they’d use to kill the 19-year-old as he fled on foot.
The couple turned left out of the parking lot, trying to run Bruce down. They missed the first time, as the teen turned to run the other way on the sidewalk.
According to a prosecutor’s affidavit, Courtier turned and chased Bruce “across oncoming lanes of traffic and then intentionally struck him with the front of the vehicle.” Police showed up within moments, finding the teen in the middle of the street with blood rushing from his head and ears. He’d be declared dead a couple of days later.
Gresham police spotted the Jeep shortly after it hit Bruce and pulled the pair over. Courtier and Hunt admitted to intentionally hitting Bruce, according to police. A grand jury indicted them both for murder on August 18.
Here's the new indictment for Courtier and Hunt, with the new hate crime counts added:
And here's Russell Courtier's entire prison disciplinary record: