Rocky Mountain Region
Rocky Mountain Regional Office
1244 Speer Blvd
Rocky Mountain Region Case Highlights
In September 2020, CRS conducted a virtual Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes forum in response to community tension following an alleged hate crime against a Sikh business owner that involved both assault and vandalism.
In April 2020, a white man entered a Lakewood, Colorado, liquor store and began knocking items off the counter and yelling that Sikh business owners did not belong in the country because they were from the Middle East. The perpetrator fled to his car, allegedly running over the business owner when he attempted to record the car’s license plate, leaving the owner hospitalized for a month with extensive injuries. The assailant was charged with a hate crime and attempted murder, in addition to other charges. The community believed the motivation for the attempted murder was due to the victim’s perceived national origin and religion.
Following the incident, CRS began to discuss ways to address the resulting community tension with Colorado Sikh Temple leadership. In July 2020, CRS began facilitating meetings with Sikh and other community members to plan a forum for the Sikh community that would include a hate crimes briefing, information about where and how to report hate crimes, and an update on the pending charges against the assailant.
An audience of 25 community members and federal law enforcement attended the virtual forum, hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado (USAO-CO) and facilitated by CRS. During the forum, presenters shared information on federal, state, and local hate crimes laws, as well as methods to combat and respond to bias incidents and hate crimes. Presenters included representatives of the Denver field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), USAO-CO, Denver County District Attorney’s Office, Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Office/Hate Free Colorado, Sikh Coalition, and an international civil and human rights organization. An FBI field agent also provided interpretation services in Punjabi during the program.
In November 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana (USAO-MT) and Bozeman and Gallatin County faith leadership requested CRS services to address community tension following a series of religion-based bias incidents and racial hate incidents in the community. The request stemmed from several incidents that had occurred earlier in the year. First, in January 2019, a Black and Native American biracial couple’s car had been spray-painted with racial epithets. In addition, in March 2019, Montana State University discovered a sticker promoting a neo-Nazi group on its campus. Then, in August 2019, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s office received a call about anti-religion graffiti at the Three Forks Methodist Church that read “666” and “God is dead.” The community became concerned that the vandalism and the presence of hate groups might escalate to a violent hate crime.
In response, CRS facilitated a Protecting Places of Worship forum in March 2020 for 30 Bozeman and Gallatin County faith leaders and community members. Panelists included representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, USAO-MT, Gallatin County Attorney’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, and statewide faith leaders, who provided information ranging from facts about hate crimes prosecutions to church-to-church assistance in response to hate targeting and responding to active shooter situations.
Following the forum, attendees asked federal partners for assistance developing safety plans for their places of worship. CRS coordinated with the Montana field office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which provided a virtual training in May 2020 on developing the individualized plans based on needs and resources available. In addition, faith leaders began meeting monthly to develop strategies, such as scheduling community meetings, to prevent and respond to anti-religion hate targeting in their community.
Latino community leaders in Salt Lake County, Utah requested CRS services to address increased community tensions following a November 2018 incident in which three men were attacked with a metal pole while the assailant yelled racial epithets, because he believed the men were Mexican. In February 2019, federal prosecutors indicted the attacker on hate crimes charges.
Following the bias-based attack, Latino business owners and religious leaders alleged that customers regularly harassed Latino business owners based on their national origin or race and that the harassment typically was not reported. Latino business owners, as well as the broader Latino community perceived the local law enforcement’s response as insufficient and were therefore unlikely to report bias-motivated incidents. Members of the Latino community reported that they lacked comprehensive information about how state hate crimes statutes are applied and how public officials, including law enforcement, would respond to attacks against Latinos.
Spurred by the recent attack and the increased tension within the community, Latino community leaders in the county and throughout Utah asked CRS to facilitate dialogues with public officials to gain a better understanding of community safeguards and protections available to address hate crimes targeting the Latino community based on race or national origin.
In July 2019, CRS facilitated a dialogue with Latino community leaders and the local District Attorney’s Office for approximately 30 community members. The district attorney’s office representatives provided information on the definition of a hate crime and how hate crimes, especially hate crimes targeting Latinos, are prosecuted in the county. CRS provided additional information to participants on how the community could address specific conflicts or hate incidents, form working groups, develop a clergy response team, hold a hate crimes forum, or address school-based hate incidents.
The CRS-facilitated session focused on building connections to increase mutual understanding between law enforcement and the Latino community. Community participants spoke about how immigration status and language barriers lead to increased fears and decreased reporting of bias incidents, about hate activity in schools, and strategies to address non-criminal hate activity. The local District Attorney’s Office assured Latino community leaders that county prosecutors would appropriately respond to bias-motivated crimes and provide Latino community leaders with formal and informal access to their office. Following the facilitated session, community members expressed increased confidence in contacting the District Attorney’s office with their concerns regarding bias-motivated crimes.
In December 2018, after a series of bias-motivated attacks and hate crimes at places of worship throughout the country, faith-based leaders in Cody, Wyoming contacted CRS and expressed increasing fears and concerns about a similar attack happening locally.
Local law enforcement also contacted CRS to raise their shared concerns with Cody area faith leaders about the safety of places of worship, including preparing for active shooter situations, and improving relations between faith communities and law enforcement.
To address the growing concerns of the Cody community, CRS, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming (USAO-WY), facilitated a March 2019 Protecting Places of Worship (PPOW) forum for more than 125 participants. The Mayor of Cody welcomed participants and spoke about the importance of faith leadership in the community. Other participants included religious leaders from across the region, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Cody Police Department. The forum included representatives from the Wyoming Interfaith Network who discussed the role of faith leaders in keeping their communities safe. A Network representative also presented on hate crimes and bias-motivated vandalism targeting places of worship in Wyoming. During the opening discussion part of the forum, participants identified how various federal, state, and local resources would respond in the event a hate crime was committed on the basis of religion.
In 2019, tensions among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) and African American students at a local high school in Cheyenne, Wyoming steadily increased. School and community relations became more strained in March 2019 after flyers appeared on the school’s walls that expressed anti-African American and anti-LGBTQ messages. The flyer incident and an incident involving a state senator who allegedly made anti-LGBTQ comments at a meeting of the school’s LGBTQ youth organization were at the center of the community tension.
State health officials and a Cheyenne-based civil rights organization contacted CRS to improve deteriorating relationships at the school. After news of the flyers on the school walls became public, additional stories spread of students at the school passing out flyers targeting Gay Student Alliance (GSA) members. The school also confirmed reports that a student shouted anti-LGBTQ slurs during a junior high school LGBTQ youth organization meeting.
CRS facilitated a process between the district superintendent, the school board, and race-based and ethnic community leaders to address community concerns regarding the management of bias incidents and equity issues throughout the district. In addition, the parties discussed ways to create greater race and ethnic awareness.
The groups then participated in a community meeting where participants developed an action plan for Cheyenne’s schools and the broader community that identified the community’s key issues concerning race and ethnicity, perceived anti-LGBTQ bias, and ways to address these concerns. Meeting participants established two working groups, one with the school board and superintendent to identify the public’s concerns and make recommendations, and a second with African American and Latino leaders. Both working groups agreed to carry out the action plan that was informed by all dialogue participants.
In early FY 2019, local American Indian reservation communities requested CRS conflict resolution services to address community concerns over allegations of disparate treatment and limited law enforcement response to community concerns. The community claimed that law enforcement officers ignored their concerns that American Indian youth and women were being targeted for human trafficking. They also reported that local law enforcement failed to respond to emergency calls made by tribal members, including calls for assistance at reservation schools.
As a result, in October 2018, CRS began working with community leadership from the local American Indian reservation communities and the American Indian’s women’s advocacy organization in response to these concerns, resulting in the formation of a working group to finalize plans for a community forum.
In November 2018, CRS facilitated a forum held by local tribal leadership that included remarks from tribal officials and a presentation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana (USAO-MT) on human trafficking and access to services. The 68 attending community members learned examples of how they could effectively partner with law enforcement in preventing various types of criminal activity, including trafficking, from occurring in their community. CRS assisted forum participants in developing a “Community Safety Response Contingency Plan” intended to further heighten awareness, facilitate service referral, and support a law enforcement response.
In October 2017, Wyoming state officials notified CRS of three incidents that were increasing tensions among Native American female students at a local college. The first two incidents involved message boards with postings of anti-Native American racial slurs targeting the only two Native American females attending the school at the time. The third incident involved vandalism of a vehicle owned by one of the targeted Native American women. No perpetrator was identified in any of the incidents.
Community tensions increased due to the alleged lack of an investigation or institutional response to the incidents from campus law enforcement. In November 2017, CRS responded to a request from college officials to convene the parties and facilitate dialogue to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the Native American community and diffuse racial tension. CRS led conflict resolution discussions between tribal leaders, alleged victims, law enforcement, and college officials to address the college’s response to the alleged hate incidents and tribal community concerns.
CRS worked with tribal leadership to make trauma counseling services available to the affected students and their parents and convened a briefing for the parents on the status of campus law enforcement’s response to the incidents. CRS also provided the college administration with hate crimes resources to help guide future responses by campus law enforcement to address the students’ and parents’ concerns.
In January 2018, CRS convened community leaders and school officials in a working group to discuss possible response options to the October 2017 alleged hate incidents. In February 2018, CRS facilitated a Hate Crimes Forum at the college with approximately 50 student, faculty, and administration participants. The forum featured representatives from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; tribal organizations; and education institutions. CRS also helped local tribal groups and education officials address concerns about educational access opportunities at the college.
In December 2016, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for occupants at a Native American Camp in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The evacuation impacted a Native American tribe and other groups protesting the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline which was planned to run through the camp. Protesters from the tribe and other groups vowed to stay at the camp, despite the mandatory evacuation, alleging the development would take place on sacred land. This standoff heightened tension in the region and created a threat to public safety and the welfare of families and children due to the harsh North Dakota winter.
Amid these tensions, CRS met with representatives from federal, state, and local government; social service groups; and the Native American tribe to facilitate dialogue. CRS mediated discussions among the various stakeholders to reduce fears and misconceptions regarding the evacuation, disseminate information on transportation and relocation services, coordinate health and safety measures, and support education and child welfare services. In February 2017, the state issued another order for the protesters to evacuate the camp due to the dangers of impending spring floods in the area. With support from CRS and other stakeholders, most protesters left the camp peacefully by the deadline and without incident.