An African-American man is recovering at an Idaho hospital after being repeatedly stabbed in an attack authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime.
Ronnell Hughes, 48, was applying for work at an Arby’s early Saturday when he was abruptly stabbed “without provocation” inside the eastern Oregon truck stop, according to Ontario police. Employees stepped in to restrain the attacker, 26-year-old Nolan Strauss of Nebraska.
Police reviewed video evidence and spoke with witnesses who said Strauss, a driver for May Trucking Co., casually walked over to the victim while he was seated and slashed him several times in the neck area with a knife. No truck stop workers were injured as they rushed to Hughes’ aid and worked to pin his attacker until authorities arrived.
OregonLive reports the incident unfolded at a truck stop along Interstate 84 near the Oregon-Idaho border. Police said Hughes was new to the area and searching for a job when he was attacked. At this time, they said there is no indication Strauss and Hughes knew each other before Saturday’s incident.
“The motive for the attack leans heavily toward a racially motivated crime,” Ontario police said in a statement.
A police affidavit obtained by the Malheur Enterprise revealed that Strauss told police he chose his victim at random “due to the color of his skin.” The suspect, who allegedly suffers from mental health issues, also told police he “hates Black people” and that “his intent was to kill [Hughes].”
Local eatery Mackey’s Steakhouse & Pub posted about the incident on its Facebook page Sunday, saying Hughes had just started working there as a cook the day before the grisly attack.
Yesterday, in our small town, a man was stabbed for just being himself. He is new to the area and had just started…
“Yesterday, in our small town, a man was stabbed for just being himself,” the post read, adding, “Will you please join us in showing this man what our community is truly about. Let’s show him the true meaning of the holidays.”
The restaurant is now collecting cash, gift cards and other donations to help Hughes during his recovery. It will also dedicate 20 percent of its sales from its monthly community partner dinner to the cause.
Hughes remains at a hospital in Boise, Idaho, where police say he’s in stable condition.
As for Strauss, he faces multiple charges including face attempted murder, assault and committing a bias crime, and is being held on a $250,000 bond at the Malheur County Jail.
Malheur County is adjacent to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where armed, mostly white militants and sovereign citizens seized the headquarters of the property in January 2016 and engaged federal law enforcement in a standoff that last for weeks.