SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Lane County filed a felony hate crime charge against a 22-year-old Eugene man after he and three Springfield teenagers allegedly chased a bi-racial teen around Springfield on Memorial Day.
This charge is on top of the six original charges against the four. And there could be more county charges in the works.
The 15-year-old victim told police that Matthew Booster and the three teens chased him around in Booster’s yellow pickup. The victim says they even tried to run him over.
KEZI spoke with one of Booster’s friends who was almost a suspect himself. Before Booster went on the drive that police say lead to his arrest, he called Brandon Ricker and invited him along.
“He was telling me he was going to go chase down this black kid that was throwing up gang signs at him,” Ricker said.
Ricker says Booster sounded pretty angry on the phone.
“He was mad because he doesn’t like people. He flipped him off and threw up gang signs,” Ricker said.
Ricker decided not to go on the ride with Booster.
“I just told him it’s stupid, go back home, come over play video games, come over and hang out with me,” Ricker said.
Booster went anyway. Police say he and his three teenage passengers found the victim near Fifth and South A Street in Springfield.
The victim told police the suspects circled the block, yelled racial slurs and threatened him.
When the victim tried to get away, the group allegedly chased him, and he says they even tried to hit him with the truck.
Ricker says he heard this part from police, but he doesn’t think it was intentional.
“I just think that’s stupid,” said Ricker said. “I think maybe on accident, but the kid getting bruises and stuff maybe from like running and tripping on loose gravel, but like I highly doubt they tried to run him over.”
Ricker says he feels that maybe he should have tried harder to stop Booster from going on the drive, but he’s glad he didn’t get caught up in it.
“This like kind of betrays me, because I’ve kind of been in trouble like this before and I’ve learned my lesson,” Ricker said.
He hopes now Booster has learned his.
We cannot release the names of the three minors involved, but they have been charged, and we were told at least two dropped out of Thurston High School.
The Springfield School District couldn’t confirm that information, but Springfield Superintendent Nancy Golden released this statement Tuesday afternoon:
“As you may be already be aware, three juveniles and an adult were arrested this week in Springfield and charged with committing a derogatory and ugly hate crime against an African-American youth.
Hate has no place in our schools or in our community. Each and every school in our community is meant to be a safe place for our students. Incidents like this one only serve to strengthen our commitment to ensuring safety and cultural competency across all aspects of our district.
The Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC) will be meeting on the steps of Springfield City Hall on Wednesday, June 6 at 3:45 p.m. The group will be putting up “Stop Hate” posters throughout downtown and anyone is welcome to volunteer.
Lastly, I want to thank staff members and encourage them to continue their dedication to creating a safe and welcoming place for all of our students.”
In response to these allegations, the Community Alliance of Lane County and two of its equality and human rights sub groups are hosting an event Wednesday, June 6.
Activists will walk around downtown Springfield to hand out leaflets and other information about how to combat hate activity.
If you’d like to join in, meet at the steps of the Springfield Public Library at 3:45 p.m. rain or shine.