“Just because we got Obama for a president, these people think they are real special,” Leonard said while in the back of a sheriff’s patrol car.
While many observers have wondered whether there has been an increase in hate crimes since Obama’s election, it’s a rare case where the assailant actually mentions the president as the reason he murders someone.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the video recording of Leonard’s statement from the patrol car was played in the Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday as evidence of a racially motivated crime. It also said that Leonard drove 23 feet before he ran over Toussaint Harrison, 34, with his 1997 green Chevy S-10. After running over Harrison, Leonard kicked him several times in the head with steel-toed boots, according to witnesses.
Harrison died two days later at UC Davis Medical Center from his injuries.
Leonard is also facing charges for the attempted murder of Harrison’s friend, Justin Oliphant, who was with him that day.
According to The Bee, Harrison and Oilphant approached Leonard’s friend, Samantha Silva, outside of a McDonald’s on Arden Way and asked her if she was hungry. Leonard came out of the McDonald’s and “he went crazy and lost his temper,” sheriff’s detective Pamela Linke testified at the hearing. Linke said that Silva told investigators that Leonard starting to swing a chain that he had in the back of his truck at the boys.
Oilphant told detectives that Leonard used a racial epithet during the fight. He and Harrison responded by throwing a knife and another sharp object at Leonard. Pictures show the cuts to Leonard’s face and midsection.
As Harrison and Oliphant ran away, Leonard got into his truck and attempted to run them over. He got to Harrison in front of the Clutch Mart automative repair shop.
Leonard’s version of the story was also on the patrol car video, according to The Bee.
“I was in fear for my life,” Leonard said. “You see what they did to me.”
“I mean it was pretty bad,” he admitted. “I became the aggressor.”
According to The Bee, defense attorney Danny Brace said that when the trial resumes on Nov. 17, Leonard will testify on his own behalf and contend that he was trying to catch them.
Leonard is also being charged of a racially motivated attack and the attempted murder of Oliphant. The charges allege that Leonard’s attack was based on “the victim’s status and perceived ethnicity,” according to The Bee.