The Journal Gazette
Sunday, February 28, 2021 1:00 am


Allegations of bias call for intense scrutiny

The details are nightmarish.

A white man shot three young Black men – two fatally – on the city's north side Feb. 18, Fort Wayne police say. The white man had argued with the young men at a gas station before leaving the business, going home, returning and firing shots from a handgun into a car, investigators have said.

Anderson Retic, 19, Joshua Cole Cooper, 19, and Jaylin Rice, 20, tried to escape by driving away from the gas station, and Joseph Bossard followed in his pickup, court documents filed last week in Allen Superior Court allege. A blue Hyundai Sonata was found crashed on Hobson Road, shell casings nearby.

Retic and Cooper were killed. Rice was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Bossard, 32, is charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery, criminal recklessness and using a gun to commit the crimes – charges that would likely keep him behind bars for the rest of his life if he is convicted.

It's clear such awful attacks deeply affect our community.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Allen County Courthouse Tuesday, and a vigil took place Thursday to mourn Retic and Cooper. ChangeMakers, an area social justice group, has also suggested the shootings were hate crimes and is pushing officials to prosecute the case to the fullest extent under the law.

Allen County prosecutors are doing what they can, but Indiana lacks a strong hate crimes law. A bias crimes statute put in place in 2019 allows judges to impose longer sentences for such crimes, but it does not allow for tougher charges.

The charges against Bossard carry a maximum penalty of more than 200 years behind bars. Indiana law requires those convicted of serious crimes to serve 75% of their sentences.

Michael McAlexander, the county's chief deputy prosecutor, said he can't comment on the case but confirmed his office is investigating whether race was a factor. Details likely would surface at trial, which could be scheduled in a hearing March 10.

Formal charges against Bossard were filed Tuesday, a day before another man – Levi Arnold, 22 – pleaded guilty in a separate killing that stoked concerns of racial motivation.

Arnold, who is white, beat DeMarcus Walker, 44, who was Black, last year with a baseball bat outside a Fort Wayne Walmart; Walker later died. Witnesses told police the beating stopped only after a bystander with a gun intervened.

Arnold, who was arrested at his home in Bluffton after fleeing, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder and resisting law enforcement, and a plea agreement calls for him to spend 511/2 years behind bars. Other charges including attempted murder likely will be dismissed at an April 19 sentencing hearing.

Walker's family has alleged the brutal attack was racially motivated.

The guilty but mentally ill plea means Arnold can receive mental health treatment in prison.

Victims of such horrific crimes deserve justice and these types of cases deserve special attention, even without a stronger state hate crimes law. Harsh penalties may not deter all racially motivated attacks, but a message such crimes won't be tolerated here is the least Fort Wayne residents deserve.

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