The FBI said Thursday it is investigating Wednesday’s shootings of five white men by a black man in Wilkinsburg, Pa., as motivated by racial hatred.
“We are now looking at this case as a hate crime,” FBI Special Agent Dennis Lormel said. “We have alerted the Department of Justice that we have opened a preliminary investigation into a civil rights crime.”
Ronald “Dante” Taylor, a 39-year-old black man, was accused Thursday of singling out whites as targets in a shooting rampage in a Pittsburgh suburb. The gunman killed three whites and wounded two others after telling a witness he would “not hurt any black people.”
“The general tenor was that he wasn’t shooting anybody but whites,” said Lt. John Brennan, commander of the homicide squad for the Allegheny County Police Department.
Lt. Brennan said that when police searched Mr. Taylor’s home Wednesday night, they found anti-white writings.
“It was basically anti-white, anti-Jew” material, said the lieutenant, who refused to release the contents.
After an arraignment Wednesday on homicide charges, Mr. Taylor was also charged Thursday with aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats, risking a catastrophe and carrying a gun without a license.
Ethnic intimidation is the state’s equivalent to hate-crime charges, Lt. Brennan said in a telephone interview with The Washington Times. Mr. Taylor could face the death penalty, the lawman added.
He was returned to Allegheny County jail after failing to post bail set at $500,000.
The incident raised the issue of “reverse racism,” which some say is a troubling trend that is rising. Explanations for it range from political correctness to racial profiling and the legacy of slavery. Some black officials deny black racism can exist.
“There is still plenty of black rage in America boiling away… . All groups are increasing their racial awareness in a negative sense,” said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which studies hate crimes.
Some contend that “reverse racism” occurs when blacks blame any failures on racism and then channel their frustration into hatred of all whites. More-liberal observers blame such sentiments among blacks on racial profiling by police departments.
Some analysts argue that most Americans are probably not aware that blacks are committing racial hate crimes because such crimes receive scant media attention.
“The ideology of political correctness is behind” efforts by the media and others “not to call crimes blacks commit against whites ‘hate crimes,’ ” said Bill Lind, director of the Free Congress Foundation’s Center for Cultural Conservatism.
“The cultural Marxism of political correctness defines blacks as victims and whites as oppressors,” Mr. Lind added.
John C. White, a spokesman for the NAACP, denies “reverse racism” exists, saying, “There’s no such thing. There’s racism period.”
In an interview with The Times, Mr. White also said, “I don’t see an increase in it.”
However, the NAACP official agreed the Wilkinsburg shootings “could be hate crimes,” since “[the assailant] apparently did pick targets based on their race.”
Other black commentators say “black racism” is impossible because only whites have any power in U.S. society.
Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association in the District of Columbia, says black racism is an oxymoron.
“It’s impossible for blacks to practice racism on whites,” he said, because “racism is the sum total of prejudice and power … and blacks don’t have power in our society.”
Even so, Mr. Hampton acknowledged blacks “can internalize racism and oppression and practice it on others.”
Police said Mr. Taylor, angry at how long it took to have a broken door at his fifth-floor apartment fixed, set the apartment on fire and fatally shot John Kroll, a 55-year-old maintenance worker.
The gunman then walked to a nearby Burger King, where he shot Joseph Healy, a 71-year-old former Roman Catholic priest, police said. Mr. Healy later died.
Mr. Taylor then crossed the street to a McDonald’s, where three others all white men were shot, police said.
One of those men, Emil Sanielevici, 20, died Thursday. The other two were still in critical condition Thursday. Mr. Taylor will be arraigned Friday in the University of Pittsburgh student’s death.
Witness Joyce Ambrose said the gunman told another black woman, “Not you, sister,” as he threatened to shoot others.
His landlord, Rebecca Vankirk, told TV station KDKA on Wednesday that Mr. Taylor “doesn’t like any whites” and had argued with her before.
Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School in Boston, said anyone who shoots people because of their race is a “racist, an extreme racist.”
“When you think you are going to solve your problems by picking out any member of a [particular racial or ethnic] group and killing him, it’s irrational. When it reaches that point, [the shooter] has generally very negative feelings toward all whites,” Dr. Poussaint, who is black, said in a telephone interview.
Dr. Poussaint said the Wilkinsburg shooter may have arrived at “generalized hatred toward whites” from experience.
He wondered whether the suspect was “abused” by a white authority figure, such as a boss or a police officer.
“Or was he stopped [by police] for racial profiling?” he asked.
Both Dr. Poussaint and Bob Wallace, spokesman for the Miami-based National Association of Chiefs of Police, say reverse racism may be the result of racial profiling, a policing practice in which officers use race as one indicator of likely criminality.
“The disproportionate amount of racial profiling that police are involved in is causing concern” among blacks, as are situations such as the Amadou Diallo case, in which four white New York policemen fatally shot an unarmed West African immigrant, said Mr. Wallace, who is white, in a telephone interview with The Times.
He added: “The black population is resentful of racial profiling, and it can be one of the incidents that sets off” black-on-white violence.
Dr. Poussaint said “anti-white feelings … are not unusual … in [some segments of] the black population.” He points out that groups such as the Black Muslims have been “anti-white” in the past.
Blacks who have such feelings against whites may “feel justified,” Dr. Poussaint said, “because during slavery and segregation, a collection of whites kept them down.”
At a Catholic Mass Thursday for the shooting victims, Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wurl also described the incident as a product of America’s “culture of death.”
This article is based in part on wire service reports.