Seale, Alabama – Eastern Alabama police announce that a hate crime bomb plot targeting gay and black classmates of a 17-year-old white supremacist has been foiled in Russell County.
Authorities arrested Derek Shrout, a self-proclaimed white power advocate, last Friday, responding swiftly to threats to bomb Russell County High School written in Shrout’s own personal journal. The journal, carelessly left behind in a classroom by Shrout, fell into the hands of a teacher, who rushed the document into the hands of police investigators. According to WTVM-TV, Shrout threatened in his journal to harm six students and one teacher, citing hatred of blacks and gays as his motive. Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told reporters, “The journal contained several plans that looked like potential terrorist attacks, and attacks of violence and danger on the school.” Five of the students Shrout specifically named were black. Shrout believed the sixth student he named was gay, also a class of persons the 17-year-old professed to hate.
Sheriff Taylor said that the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut were an inciting factor in Shrout’s intention to bomb the high school. The first entry showing the student’s intent to attack his school is on December 17, only three days after the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. Fox News reports that law enforcement officers discovered over 25 smokeless tobacco tins and two larger cans with holes drilled in them in Shrout’s rooms on Friday. The tins were filled with pellets, partially outfitted as homemade bombs and grenades. One of the tins was labeled “Fat Man,” and another “Little Boy,” apparently in emulation of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. The improvised bombs were only “a step or two away from being ready to explode,” the Sheriff observed, going on to say that the quick thinking of school officials averted a horrible outcome. “The system worked and thank God, it did,” he said. “We avoided a very bad situation.”
In his own defense, Shrout claims that the entries in his journal were fictions, and that he never intended to harm classmates or the teacher. He was held in custody on $75,000 bond on a felony charge of assault until a court appearance this Monday, when he made bail. The presiding judge released Shrout under the following conditions: he must remain at home; wear a GPS locator bracelet on his ankle; refrain from initiating contact with anyone connected to the school; and be monitored by a parent while on the Internet. A court date for the teen has been set for February 12.
Shrout, who moved to Alabama from Kansas with his military family, had become well-known in Russell County High for his anti-gay and racist views. Classmates noted that he and a circle of other white supremacist friends often espoused white power propaganda, and gave each other the Nazi salute. Senior Class President David Kelly is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have his big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff.”
Authorities say that the teen was involved in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, and had learned bomb making from the internet. Now his classmates are expressing anger and frustration at Shrout’s intended attack on their school. David White, who used to hang out with Shrout after JROTC meetings, exclaimed to reporters, “Why would you want to go to a school and blow it up? You know you’re going to hit somebody else; you’re not just going to, in particular, hit one person. You’re going to injure more than one.”
Hawkins was arrested for the crime by Mobile Police and charged with second-degree assault on Sunday while his victim was still recovering from emergency surgery at the University of South Alabama Medical Center. Godwin commented on the charges against her sister’s assailant to the press, saying, “That charge shouldn’t be there. He should’ve been charged with attempted murder.” As News 5 reports, other members of Mallory’s family are also calling for stiffer charges to be leveled against Hawkins, who had a previous altercation with the victim. In addition to a charge of murder, the Owens family contends that Hawkins, who loudly disapproved of his sister’s relationship with a lesbian, committed a hate crime during the attack and is now a free man after being bonded out of custody the same day he was arrested.
Mallory, who is to be released from the hospital on Monday, will likely need reconstructive surgery to repair the extensive damage to her face and skull, expensive procedures which the family cannot pay for by themselves. Local and Facebook efforts to raise money to defray her medical costs are underway. An account has been opened in her name at Regions Bank, and donations may be made to any branch worldwide. Justice Today-For Mallory, a Facebook group established by Pensacola, Florida motel owner Sonia Mason, features up to date posts on Mallory’s continuing struggle to heal. The story of the brutal hate crime assault against Mallory is going viral around the World Wide Web.
Young Hawkins was already well known to local law enforcement authorities, according to AL.com. His father, Travis Monroe Hawkins Sr., 40-years-of-age, was arrested and charged with shooting Travis Jr. in the chest during an altercation in January 2011. Avery Godwin says Travis Jr. is intent on further violence against her sister. Godwin is quoted in “The Time of My Life” blog as alleging that young Hawkins called to threaten Godwin since the Thanksgiving assault, and to put the family on notice “that he would finish what he started last night [the night after the attack] with Mallory.”
As of this writing, law enforcement authorities are remaining largely mum about the case, saying only that they believe the attack took place quickly, during a span of only a few seconds total, and consisted of three blows. If that is the case, they are three of the most devastating blows, causing the most physical damage, that the Unfinished Lives Project Team has ever seen.
Opelika, Alabama – A 25-year-old lesbian was assaulted by a dozen assailants outside a local bar after a birthday party last week in an alleged hate crime, but law enforcement officers arrested only her. Laura Gilbert asserts that from the moment she went into The Villa, a bar on the outskirts of Opelika in Lee County, she felt uneasy. On February 2, Gilbert accompanied her friend from high school days, Sheila Siddall, to celebrate her birthday by singing karaoke. Gilbert told WRBL News, “As soon as we walked in the bar, I felt uncomfortable, I felt everybody staring at us, but you know, it was her birthday, I didn’t want to ruin it for her.” The victim says she had never been to the bar before, but had concerns that, as a lesbian, she would not be welcome there. Her fears were confirmed as the two women left the premises. According to Gilbert and Sidall, a woman approached them and started a fight. The altercation grew to include a gang of ten women and two men. One of the men shouted at Gilbert, “If you want to look like a man, you can get hit like a man!” Rather than being punched to the ground, Gilbert fought back to defend herself. Siddall immediately called 911, but the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to the emergency call after the fight was over singled Gilbert out, arresting her for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. No one else has been charged or arrested. “They didn’t take our side of the story,” Gilbert told WRBL. “They took their side of the story, and then all of a sudden, they come up behind me and tell me to put my hands behind my back, that I’m going to jail.” Though witnesses reported that many other participants in the attack were just as intoxicated as Gilbert, she was the only person charged and taken off to jail. The victim was badly bruised, and her eye was severely blackened in the assault, as photographs taken at the time attest. Now Gilbert and Siddall are pushing back, saying that the attack was motivated by anti-lesbian bias, and that this prejudice against Gilbert’s sexual orientation is the motive for law enforcement siding with the attackers. Sidall, who is heterosexual, says that not only did the Lee County Sheriff’s Deputies neglect to take statements from her and her lesbian friend–the deputies were “laughing and cutting up” with the drunken perpetrators. Sheriff Jay Jones says that the “hate crime box” was not checked off at the time of the incident, so that must mean that no hate crime occurred. Alabama, however, is one of only five states in the nation that has no hate crimes protections for LGBTQ people. The Alabama hate crimes statute only recognizes bias against race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability. Sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are not protected under Alabama law, so it is doubtful that law enforcement officers would have acknowledged an anti-gay or lesbian hate crime that would not count in the state. Sheriff Jones, when questioned by WRBL reporters said that it was clear “something” had happened to the lesbian at The Villa, and belatedly offered to investigate further and issue warrants if he deems they are due. The Dallas Voice reports that both Siddall and Gilbert have since filed separate reports on the attack, but that no one in law enforcement has bothered to interview them. Gilbert,who is recovering from her injuries, summed up her situation to WRBL reporters: “I’m an American just like the rest of us are. I have rights. I have the same rights as y’all do, supposedly, but people from here don’t look at it that way.” States without protections for LGBTQ people typically report far fewer hate crimes incidents than those that do have such hate crimes laws. Comparable states in population like Alabama and Connecticut illustrate the point. In 2009, Alabama reported only nine hate crimes statewide. Connecticut, during the same period, recorded over 200. The Opelika bar attack is stirring debate on the need for “Sweet Home Alabama” to expand its hate crimes protections so that its residents may be justly treated–finally.