By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Broke and unemployed from his job as a vinyl window installer, skinhead Ronald Lee Bray nonetheless preferred that a friend repay a debt, not with cash but with free cocktails. Why not? The July 6, 2006, evening at a Costa Mesa bar was an anniversary of sorts. One week earlier, Bray—a drug addict and petty thief with a long rap sheet—emerged from the Orange County Jail after a DUI arrest.
At the bar, Bray and his friend got wasted and then decided they weren't drunk enough. They walked to a 7-Eleven on Harbor Boulevard near Mesa Verde to purchase cigarettes and more booze. Bray later admitted that alcohol often triggered "blackouts" and, worse, anger "in my head."
Tommy (we're not using his full name) is a 28-year-old disabled African American who has been victimized repeatedly by white supremacists over the years. Once, they even stabbed him, causing a wound as emotional as it was physical. In hopes of avoiding the skinheads who roam Southern California, he'd moved to his current Costa Mesa neighborhood.
Sadly, his relocation was in vain. At a crosswalk near the 7-Eleven on Harbor, fate placed Tommy beside Bray, a 23-year-old 11th grade dropout.
"Are you ready to leave yet, nigger?" blurted Bray, whose prior stunts include stealing a tip jar from a pizza parlor, chronic vandalism, possession of 100 grams of marijuana and a drug-induced, high-speed car chase through Huntington Beach that qualifies for an episode of Cops.
"Go back to Compton," Bray added.
"I don't want any problems," replied Tommy, who attempted to flee in his wheelchair.
Bray—6-foot, two inches tall and 180 pounds—then spat in the black man's face and kicked him. The force of the blow almost knocked the handicapped man out of his wheelchair and into a utility pole. According to witnesses, Bray then yelled, "OC Skinheads, mother fucker!" before triumphantly entering the convenience store.
Tommy feared for his safety, a concern only heightened when Bray left the store and approached again.
"I thought I told you to leave, you fucking nigger," said Bray, who then spat a second time on the man before fleeing.
Stopped by police after a good Samaritan's 911 call, Bray explained that he thought he heard "someone" say, "Hey, fuck you," outside of the 7-Eleven. He admitted it wasn't Tommy, but he couldn't help that all "my rage then focused on the black guy and I said, 'Hey nigger, you need to go back to where you came from.'"
The crime drew the attention of prosecutor Scott Steiner, head of the district attorney's hate crimes unit. "This DA's office is not going to ignore or minimize hate crimes," said Steiner. "Some people claim these acts are little more than name calling. In fact, callous violence often follows and it turns a victim's life upside down."
But Bray tried to talk his way out of charges. Never mind his affiliation with a gang of racists, he said he wouldn't have committed a hate crime. He insisted he didn't remember kicking or spitting on Tommy. Any bigotry he exhibited could be blamed on alcohol. In fact, he volunteered that he's okay with interracial marriages—as long as the couples don't have children.
"My racism is phony," said Bray, who suggested his societal skills would be fine with a few counseling sessions.
* * *
Bray, now serving a 32-month prison sentence, isn't the type of character that the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) would ever acknowledge. In fact, the TVC recently attacked the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its January report on the rise of extremist hate groups operating in Orange County, California and nationwide. The TVC issued a statement calling the ADL "experts at propaganda" who are masterminding a "deceitful effort" using the "KKK and skinheads."
"TVC's research into the incidence of 'hate crimes' has consistently shown that there is very little substance to the claims of such groups as the ADL," said Andrea Lafferty, the group's executive director. "[The ADL's extremist group report is] an orchestrated effort to manipulate public opinion into supporting passage of a draconian 'hate crime' bill."
But unlike the TVC, whose staff live off of the proceeds of a well-oiled anti-gay direct mail machine, the ADL report isn't mere political posturing. For example, the group detailed the increasing activism of the Public Enemy Number 1 Death Squad (PEN1). The 350-member white supremacist gang formed in Long Beach in 1986 and its forte includes murder, illegal weapons, narcotics—especially methamphetamines—forgery, identity theft and aggravated assaults.
For a glimpse at PEN1's violence, see the Weekly's 2006 feature on the savage torture and killing of a young man in Huntington Beach with a steel claw hammer. ["The Trials of Billy Joe, White Supremacist," Feb. 16, 2006.]
"Public Enemy Number 1 has positioned itself as a white power criminal organization capable of operating both on the streets and in the prison yards as foot soldiers for older, more established white supremacist prison gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Nazi Low Riders," said Kevin O'Grady, interim director of ADL's Orange County regional office.
Hogwash, says Lafferty, who—along with her father, the Rev. Lou Sheldon—likely fear that hate crime legislation might interfere with their fund-raising revenues. Of course, that possibility can't be spoken. Instead, Lafferty maintains that the ADL and its report is a front for homosexuals who want to "vilify the family."