An unidentified 22-year-old native American man from the Navajo Indian reservation was brutally attacked on April 29 by three white men: Jesse Sanford, 24, William Hatch, 28, and Paul Beebee, 26 in what prosecutors in Farmington, northwestern New Mexico, are calling a hate crime. The three were accused of kidnapping and branding the 22-year-old, mentally challenged man with a swastika.
"We'll explore every conceivable available avenue in charging them with a hate crime because what happened to the victim was so horribly wrong," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Sarah Weaver. "The U.S. Attorney's Office is very interested in taking the case."
Police believe the men heated a wire hanger fashioned in the shape of a swastika to burn the victim's flesh. The suspects are also accused of shaving a swastika symbol on the back of the 22-year-old victim's head and drawing degrading pictures and words on the man's body with red and black permanent markers, Farmington Police Sgt. Robert Perez said.
The words "White Power" were written on the back of the victim's neck and two horns were drawn with red marker on the victim's face above his eyebrows, an electric beard trimmer was used to shave the swastika into his hair. Video and photographs were also taken on a cellular phone to record the incident. Police took the victim to San Juan Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Jesse Sanford, one of the accused men, told police that on April 29 the victim came into the McDonalds restaurant on East Main Street, where all three suspects work, looking for a place to stay. Sanford claimed the victim, who wanted a haircut and a tattoo, "wanted the swastika design because it was a tribal symbol," according to court records.
Investigators believe the victim was coerced into a vehicle and taken to an apartment on 28th Street where the attack occurred. After the incident they kicked the victim out of the residence and he went to the 7 to 11 convenience store at 710 E. 30th St., for assistance and a store clerk there called 911.
Police obtained search warrants to search the apartment and vehicle. They found evidence to suggest that the accused were white supremacists.
"We haven't identified this as a gang-related crime, that is still under investigation," Perez said. "But they appear to be associated in some fashion to the white supremacist movement."
Sanford was being held at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center for misdemeanor charges related to a motor vehicle crash at the time the warrants were issued. Beebe and Hatch were arrested Friday night. All three men were charged with: First-degree felony kidnapping, Second-degree felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, Third-degree felony aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and Fourth-degree felony conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, according to Sgt. Robert Perez. Beebe also faces fourth-degree felony tampering with evidence. All three men are being held on a $150,000 cash-only bond.
The hate crime law in New Mexico results in a sentencing enhancement of one year for each charge. The suspects face 35.5 years in prison, including a mandatory 18 years for the first-degree felony kidnapping charges, if convicted of all the charges and the hate crime enhancement. Beebe faces an additional 18 months for the tampering with evidence charge. Federal charges may also be filed.