Before the shooting that killed three men earlier this month – in which the black perpetrator told police he targeted white victims – Fresno was already facing higher-than-usual reports of hate crimes.
In four of the state’s five biggest cities, including Fresno, hate crimes have seen multi-year highs. Fresno’s latest number of hate crimes is up from only two incidents reported in 2011.
Across California’s largest cities, hate crimes increased by a total of more than 14 percent since 2015. Pending final numbers, the state is poised to see its first back-to-back yearly increases in hate crimes for the first time in 20 years, according to the report.
A racial motive for a murder makes the crime eligible for the death penalty in California.
California State University, San Bernardino report
“In over one dozen cases of civil conflicts across the state, there were multiple injuries and hundreds of arrests or criminal charge referrals, after violent mass street or campus confrontations,” the report says. “California-based extremists have become increasingly combative as they openly organize for violent confrontations on social media.”
Seven of the reported hate crimes in Fresno last year were related to race or ethnicity; three were related to sexual orientation and two were related to religion.
Like other cities across the U.S., Fresno saw an uptick in hate crimes during election season. Three hate crimes were reported in Fresno in November 2016, compared to one in November 2015.
That includes a threatening letter addressed to the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, which stated President Donald Trump was going to cleanse America and “do to Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” That incident mirrored others that targeted mosques across the country.
354Hate crimes reported in California’s largest cities in 2016
The report also points to the mass shooting in Fresno on April 18, in which Kori Ali Muhammad was allegedly targeting random white men.
“A racial motive for a murder makes the crime eligible for the death penalty in California,” the report says.
On social media posts and online videos, Muhhamad showed support for black nationalist groups and the Nation of Islam, which has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting black supremacy and anti-Semitism.
In California last year, there were 15 active black separatist groups, according to the report.
“California has a long history of extremism ranging from Aryan prison and motorcycle gangs, religious extremists, environmental extremists, the John Birch Society, anti-fascists and anarchists, racist skinheads, racist anti-immigrant groups, black nationalists, white supremacists, hate rock aficionados, ethnic gangs and criminal syndicates, sovereign citizens, Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis and Klansmen,” the report says.