Fox News reports that the savage beating of Matthew Owens in Alabama will not be investigated as a hate crime, even though a witness (the victim’s sister) claims one of the attackers said, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon,” after Owens was pulverized by a mob wielding improvised weapons:
Asked if the incident was being investigated as a hate crime, Rains replied: “No, it’s not. It’s being investigated as an assault.” Eugene A. Seidel, first assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, declined to comment on the case when reached by FoxNews.com.
“Our policy is not to comment one way or another about cases,” Seidel said when asked if his office has inquired about the incident. “All I can say is no comment.”
The incident occurred in a middle-class neighborhood in Mobile, on a street where residents have often been at odds with teens who block the roadway to play pickup basketball, WKRG reported. Owens has a criminal record that includes arrests for domestic assault, driving under the influence and public intoxication.
WKRG News in Mobile further expands upon Owens’ background:
Neighbors say Matthew Owens chased off a group of black kids with kitchen knives after the boys lost a basketball in his sister’s yard. He was attacked by as many as 20 people with chairs, pipes and paint cans a short time later.
Based on the accusations from angry neighbors, News 5 did some digging and learned Owens has a violent track record. The Mobile County Metro Jail log shows police have arrested Owens numerous times over the past 12 years for things like domestic violence, assault and sex abuse. His first arrest was November 4, 1990 for assault. The last time officers transported Owens to jail was last March on a domestic violence charge.
Regardless of what happened Saturday night leading up to the beating, police and most people would agree that it is not an excuse to put Owens in the ICU.
Tensions are reportedly “running high” on the street where the assault took place, as angry residents claim Owens had a history of yelling at street basketball players. Before a WKRG live shot, “a black woman who lives on the street” started yelling at the reporter and “saying the kids are the real victims.”
The authorities say they can’t corroborate the eyewitness account delivered by Owens’ sister, which is a little odd, because it sounds like a lot of people witnessed the incident. However, WKRG reporter Lauren Vargas “spoke with a neighbor who also heard a member of the mob that beat Matthew Owens say ‘Now that’s justice for Trayvon.’”
Owens’ brother claims the angry mob drove up in three or four cars, rather than assembling on foot. He also says Owens, from his hospital bed, said “don’t let me die.” He remains in critical condition.
The local Fox News affiliate managed to get some comments from one of the young basketball players whose encounter with Owens precipitated the mob action:
David Dinkus was playing with his friends when the game of hoops turned into something more.
“We were playing basketball. And the basketball had rolled down there, and he said, ‘God bless us.’ And we said, ‘God bless you, too.’ And then the ball rolled back in the other yard, and he said get your…out the yard,” said Dinkus.
There are still questions about exactly what happened next.
What we do know is that police said a group confronted Owens shortly thereafter. They said Owens was beaten severely with bats, bricks and a paint can.
Immediately, rumors surfaced that the motivation behind the assault was racial.
Mayor Sam Jones is working on rumor control:
Tuesday, Mayor Jones urged the public to be patient.
“Wait for the facts as far as we’re concerned right now. But, I would caution people to not jump to conclusions right now. This is really very divisive in communities throughout the country, and I don’t think we have any reason to be divisive here because I don’t see any evidence of that,” said Jones.
Jones said he is shocked with the national attention this crime has gotten.
“It’s really been blown out of proportion, and I would just caution people not to be a part of threat,” said Jones.
The authorities were expecting to make arrests yesterday, and in fact claim a suspect “told them he was going to turn himself in,” but no arrests had been made as of Wednesday morning. WKRG News says police are “in the process of serving warrants.”