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Michigan Eye Doctor Charged with Federal Hate Crimes, Leaving Several Nooses and Racist Notes That Terrorized Black Residents

A Michigan eye doctor is charged with federal hate crimes for targeting Black people by leaving a string of threatening notes and nooses in his wake.

Regina Simon of Saginaw, Michigan, and her husband at the time allegedly were victims of Kenneth Pilon, 61, who authorities say targeted the mixed-race couple by placing a noose in their truck with a note attached saying “accessory to be worn with your Black Lives Matter t-shirt” in July 2020.

Terry Pruitt, Saginaw’s NAACP chapter president, was one of the first people the Simons contacted when this incident happened.

Pilon targeted the couple amid nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020. Pruitt says he told the Simons that getting federal authorities involved would help bring about more accountability for the alleged racist acts.

According to the Washington Post, it’s unclear exactly how federal authorities caught wind of Pilon, but Pruitt says he urged the Simons to contact local police.

“Many of these types of issues are under federal law and you have to charge people federally to get any kind of accountability,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt says Pilon’s alleged acts of racism happened at a time when the Saginaw community was still reeling from the killing of Milton Hall, a Black man who police say brandished a knife after a confrontation at a gas station in July of 2012 and failed to drop it as police instructed, as described in a DOJ report.

Hall was shot at dozens of times by six officers on scene. The FBI determined the shooting didn’t present sufficient evidence of willful misconduct to prosecute the officers involved.

“We had a Black man who was mentally unstable who was shot 41 times by six white police officers who all were never held accountable for that,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt also lays blame on former President Donald Trump for fueling racial tensions in the community leading up to racist notes and nooses allegedly left behind by Pilon. “Especially over the last four or five years, and I’m going to put this squarely on the table of our previous president who heightened what we see now as overt racist acts,” Pruitt said.

The DOJ says in addition to the threats made to the Simons, Pilon also allegedly called nine Starbucks stores in Michigan and told employees answering his calls, to tell fellow employees wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts, “the only good n—-r is a dead n—-r” and he also reportedly told an Starbucks employee, “I’m going to go out and lynch me a n—r.”

The DOJ also says, Pilon left four nooses in store parking lots and a fifth noose was left inside a 7-Eleven store and each noose contained the same message as left in the Simons’ truck, “an accessory to be worn with your BLM t-shirt, Happy Protesting.”

Pruitt says the two years span it took for authorities to investigate Pilon’s alleged crimes added to the racial tension.  

“One of the reasons why the investigation took so long, they had to tie all of those things together whether or not it’s the same individual, whether or not it’s a group of individuals conspiring to commit these acts,” Pruitt said.

“This case is a horrifying example of hatred, and it really exemplifies why it’s important for people to stand up against individuals who personify hate and what I mean by that is going out and doing action that targets a group of individuals or a person,” said Carolyn Normandin, Regional Director of Michigan’s Anti-Defamation League.

Last October, the FBI reported 15,138 hate crimes were submitted by law enforcement agencies throughout 2020. African-Americans were the largest victim category in the report.

“It targets an entire group of people because for anybody who shares that characteristic feel harassed by it, so this particular case is just really horrifying,” Normandin went on to say of Pilon’s alleged hate crimes.

Pilon was a local optometrist, according to the Detroit Free Press, and Pruitt says his arrest goes to show the sting of racism can be felt by anyone in ways you would least expect.

“This is a professional person, an optometrist who no doubt treated people of very diverse backgrounds and color, those mindsets exist across the spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds,” Pruitt said.

Pilon has been charged with willfully intimidating and attempting to intimidate citizens from engaging in lawful speech and protests in support of Black Lives Matter, a misdemeanor charge that carries with it a fine and possibly up to a year in prison.

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