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Was road rage incident in Auburn a hate crime?

Claude Andrew Henry (KIRO 7)

KIRO 7’s Casey McNerthney is investigating a potential hate crime in Auburn — but it’s different from the hate crimes that normally make the news.

Early in the morning of Oct. 23, after a man and his fiancée had parked their car in a way that it blocked the drive-through of an Auburn restaurant. After the man and woman moved the car at the request of an employee, a driver, later identified as 28-year-old Claude Andrew Henry, got out of a Cadillac and allegedly pulled a gun on the couple.

According to McNerthney, after Henry put the gun away, the fiancée stated, “This is [expletive].”

McNerthney said that according to police records, Henry then told the woman, “This is what happens to white people whenever they come into this side of town,” and pointed his gun at her again.

McNerthney and his team asked King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s office if that statement, along with the allegedly threatening behavior, could make this crime a hate crime.

“We were curious as to what the standard was,” McNerthney said, noting that Henry, who has a criminal history, had been charged with two counts of felony harassment, but not malicious harassment, the charge for a hate crime.

However, “they didn’t think that this could meet their filing and disposition standards for malicious harassment,” McNerthney explained.

There was a malicious harassment case in West Seattle in 2011 where a young black man pleaded guilty to assaulting a white man on the basis of race.

While looking into the Auburn case, McNerthney said that he and his colleague Amy Clancy, who originally found the police documents, felt that the sorts of race-based statements such as the one allegedly uttered by Henry should make the news, no matter who is involved.

“Regardless of the race or color or anything of the suspect and victim, whenever somebody makes a comment like that, that should be a news story … that’s a pretty serious deal,” he said.

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