How Will Police Decide What Role Race Played in The University City Shooting?

In a tragic turn of events, seven adults were shot at a University City apartment complex pool party earlier this month. One woman named Monique Clark was killed. Witnesses say that  49-year-old Peter Selis, a resident at the upscale La Jolla Crossroads complex, never even left his pool chair when he opened fire on a birthday party.  The question left in everyone’s mind is whether Selis was motivated by race, something that the witnesses and survivors of the shooting believe to be true. All the victims of the mass shooting were people of color – four black women, two black men, and one Latino man.  

The three police offers who arrived at the scene shot and killed Mr. Selis. The preliminary investigation revealed that Mr. Selis is a car mechanic at a Ford dealership, and a 2015 bankruptcy filing illustrated that he was under crushing debt.

Hate Crimes

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Hate crimes are the only criminal case in which prosecutors are required to prove a perpetrator’s motive at trial. Typically, the defendant’s mens rea, or criminal intent, is all that is needed to prove guilt. This means that the perpetrator’s state of mind must be an element of the crime; he or she must have taken action intentionally to pursue a criminal result. For example, if a gunman opens fire on a crowd, prosecutors must prove that he intended to pull the trigger (the action) and shoot people to harm them (the criminal result). With hate crimes, prosecution must prove that the perpetrator had the mens rea  to shoot people, but that he or she was also motivated by the victim’s race, gender, or religion.

As a result, hate crimes are extremely difficult to prove even if the crime of shooting is considered by some to be a ‘slam dunk’ case. The mere difference between the race of the offender and the victim in and of itself, absent of any other objective bias indicators, is unlikely to result in a conviction. Usually there must be more evidence to examine the surrounding circumstances. This may include statements the suspect made prior to the crime, which do not exist in the case of Mr. Selis.

A total of 84 “hate crime events” were reported in 2016 in San Diego.

San Diego Violent Crime and Criminal Defense Attorney

There is no doubt that racially biased crimes are inexcusable. It is also common these days for people to get wrongly accused of hate crimes, especially in our tense political environment. If you have made a mistake in your life and committed a crime, you should not have to potentially face hate crime charges because the victim just happened to belong to a certain racial or ethnic group. If you have been wrongfully accused of a hate crime, contact the Law Offices of David M. Boertje today. This is a matter that needs to be immediately addressed by a skilled attorney.  At the Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we will fight for you.