Virginia Man Gets 28 Years, Avoids Hate Crime Charge for Beating Wheelchair-Bound Elderly Black Man to Death

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A Virginia man with a prior hate crime conviction will spend the next 28 years in prison for the fatal beating of an elderly black man in a wheelchair.

Michael McReynolds was sentenced Tuesday in the death 80-year-old Johnny Battle, whom he bludgeoned to death in an unprovoked attack last year, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. McReynolds, 44, was convicted of second-degree murder in the killing.

Michael McReynolds and Johnny Battle
Michael McReynolds (left) was convicted of second-degree murder after beating Johnny Battle, a wheelchair-bound grandfather, to death in an unprovoked attack. (Images courtesy of Richmond Police / WTVR)

“Hatred is like a disease … it hurts those who carry the hate,” said Regatha Pair, Battle’s longtime girlfriend. “I hope he has time to think [and] change his, you know, view.”

McReynolds, who has a dozen prior convictions for gun and drugs possession, as well as assault, whaled on Battle with his fists and feet, all while hurling racial slurs as the elderly man sat in his wheelchair in the backyard of his home in Richmond. Battle had just exited the back door when McReynolds approached on a motorcycle.

As reported by the Times-Dispatch: “A video filmed by an employee of the auto shop behind Battle’s home showed McReynolds … ripping open the door and using it and the porch railing to leverage his body higher as he kicked and stomped down.”

Pair witnessed the April 2018 incident, and recalled the defendant using the n-word before knocking her boyfriend unconscious and out of his wheelchair. Afterward, McReynolds tried stealing the victim’s prized classic car.

“First blow he hit Johnny in the forehead and called him the n-word and said something about it was his land, and to stay away from his car, so I knew it was a hate crime then,” she told Richmond station WTVR.

McReynolds escaped hate crime charges, however. The decision not to charge him angered Pair, especially after she learned McReynolds was previously convicted of a hate crime in 2003 for hurling racist slurs and beer bottles at an Asian man in Vermont.

Chris Bradshaw, a lawyer for the defendant, said McReynolds suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his time as a military sniper and wasn’t in his right mind when he attacked Battle. A forensic psychologist hired to examine the suspect’s sanity at the time of the offense testified that McReynolds “was so high on crystal methamphetamine and marijuana” that he likely wasn’t aware of his actions.

At his sentencing Tuesday, the suspect reportedly begged forgiveness from Battle’s family, apologizing repeatedly, according to the Times-Dispatch.

“I’m sorry that we’re here today,” McReynolds said. “I’m sorry that I’m a sorry piece of [expletive]. I’m sorry that I’ve killed your grandfather, your father, your boyfriend, soul mate.”

“I had no reason to hate your grandfather,” he added.

Battle’s family and friends remembered him as a beloved mentor and father figure who loved to restore old cars.

“It’s a rare kind, you don’t see it much anymore,” said Pair. “He was a man, he was my man,” Pair said.

Watch more in the video below.

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