Foundation letter to OR Senators/Representative
June 1, 2019
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward Sen. Betsy Johnson Rep. Dan Rayfield
Sent via email
RE: Stand up for our murdered son by a white supremacist and pass SB577
Dear Sens. Steiner Hayward and Johnson, and Rep. Rayfield,
As co-sponsors of Senate Bill 577, you know the importance of this Hate Crime legislation at a time when hate crimes are increasing in Oregon. This is deeply personal to us. Every day, we live with the pain of hate crimes, and the deep sorrow that the state’s antiquated intimidation laws allowed a convicted white supremacist murderer to receive a lesser sentence.
Our son, Larnell Bruce Jr., a 19-year old Black teenager, was intentionally hunted down, run over and murdered by a white supremacist while driving a Jeep as his girlfriend egged him on, yelling "Get him baby," and "Run him over." This 2016 hate crime in Gresham resulted in the first hate crime murder conviction in Oregon in 30 years, since the brutal bludgeoning murder of Mulugeta Seraw.
While white supremacist Russell Courtier was sentenced to life in prison with the chance of parole until after serving 28 years for the murder of our son, Courtier would also have received a 20-year sentence for felony hate crime if SB577 was in effect. Currently Oregon’s outdated intimidation laws require that a murderer in a hate crime be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The seriousness or intent of the murder did not matter. The law requires two individuals to be engaged in a hate crime to make it a felony, rather than an individual involved in a serious crime.
It’s so wrong to have a law require two individuals to be engaged in a hate crime to be a felony. Current laws encourage hate speech and discrimination against people of color and other vulnerable populations. Please pass SB577 so that no other family has to go through so much loss and pain, especially since the sentencing did not fit the crime.
We implore you to pass SB 577 this session. This critical Hate Crime legislation will reverse Oregon’s long history of hate and discrimination. Thank you for your leadership and making Oregon a place where hate crimes are taken seriously.
Larnell Bruce, Sr. and Natasha Bruce