PHOENIX AP — An interracial couple was walking near a Phoenix park when authorities say a shirtless neo-Nazi began angrily yelling a racial slur and harassing the black man in the couple over dating a white woman. Authorities say the men exchanged tense words before Travis Ricci rushed back to a home where other white supremacists were partying, grabbed a shotgun and returned in a sedan driven by an associate. Ricci leaned out the car and fired two buckshot blasts, missing the black man — the intended target — and killing his girlfriend, investigators said.
Lawyers are now picking a jury to decide whether Ricci should be convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the attack, which prosecutors say was a hate crime. Opening statements are tentatively scheduled for June 6.
Since prosecutors have called the attack a hate crime, they can seek as many as 11 additional years in prison — above the maximum penalty — if Ricci is convicted of other charges, such as attempted murder, drive-by shooting, aggravated assault and assisting a criminal gang. They note that nearly two years after the attack, Wellmaker was jailed in an unrelated case and played chess with Ricci behind bars without recognizing him. He is already serving 11 years for assisting a criminal gang.
The Phoenix Police Department, which investigated the attack, also declined to comment. Prosecutors said in court records that Wellmaker, who was unarmed, was extremely distraught over the attack and tried to help his girlfriend after she was shot.
Sometime later, Jaeger and Wellmaker were near a pay phone when the sedan pulled up.
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Ricci fired two shells, hitting Jaeger in the stomach from about 10 feet 3 meters away, prosecutors said. Ricci ended up telling Wellmaker he was the person accused of killing his girlfriend, a judge wrote in a pretrial ruling. He is serving a year sentence for assault and weapons misconduct convictions. Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.
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Fatal attack on interracial couple in Arizona he to trial. Ricci, who authorities said was a member of a white supremacist group, is being tried in Phoenix on a murder charge in a woman's shooting death. Prosecutors say the woman, who was white, was killed because Ricci was upset that she was dating a black man. Ricci is currently serving a year prison sentence in an unrelated case for aggravated assault and misconduct involving weapons.
Arizona Department of Corrections via AP. Connect with the definitive source for global and local news. The Associated Press.
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