In Wisconsin, a coalition of over twenty community groups is calling for the triple homicide of a Puerto Rican man and Hmong couple, who were fatally shot by their white neighbor, to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
Groups urge hate crime charges in Milwaukee triple homicide
The criminal complaint against Dan J. Popp, who is white, alleges that he made racial comments before fatally shooting a Hmong couple, Phia Vue and Mai K. Vue, and a Puerto Rican man, Jesus R. Manso-Perez, in their apartment complex in southwest Milwaukee earlier this month.
On Friday, representatives from 22 groups representing members of the Latino, Hmong and other communities called on authorities to investigate the killings as hate crimes.
"This act needs to be labeled what it is," said Darryl D. Morin of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "It is important that our community, our city, our state and, in fact, our nation admit that hate does exist and where we see it, we must identify it."
Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was one of six people killed in 2012 when a white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, said it was helpful to have the U.S. Justice Department declare that a hate crime. The clear articulation of what had happened, and knowing the motive behind it, helped his community recover and move forward.
"We ask for that same clear articulation that this is indeed driven by hate, not simply mental illness, and that this crime needs to be prosecuted as such," Kaleka said.
The coalition also urged authorities to report on how Popp had access to firearms given his history of mental illness and to review the treatment he received from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to witnesses, the altercation started when Popp questioned Manso-Perez and his son about their background. When they said they were from Puerto Rico, Popp replied, "Oh, that's why you don't speak English." A short time later, Popp pointed a gun at them, said, "You guys got to go," and shot Manso-Perez.
Shortly afterward, Popp went to the apartment of Phia and Mai Vue. The family had fled into bedrooms when they heard the shooting, but Popp forced his way inside, pulled the couple out and shot them dead in front of their children and another relative.
Popp has been charged with three counts of intentional homicide. He has not been charged with a hate crime. As of last week, Milwaukee police said the motive remains under investigation and prosecutors said they are still evaluating evidence to determine if additional charges or enhancers will be filed.
Meanwhile, loved ones have set up memorial funds for the victim's families.
More here: Groups Pushing Prosecutors To Investigate Triple Slaying In Milwaukee As Hate Crime