In the latest apparent instance of deadly anti-Black vigilantism, a suspected racist white driver shot and killed a Black man after both men’s cars were in what’s being described as a “minor collision” in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Friday night. It wouldn’t be until the next day that police arrested Anthony J. Trifiletti and charged him with the murder of Douglas C. Lewis, a 39-year-old father whose family was grieving after the apparent case of road rage.
What took so long for Trifiletti to be arrested? Well, of course, he told police he feared for his life, even though he was the one who was armed with a gun and not Lewis. Trifiletti had a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But a series of tweets from self-identified family members of Lewis accused Trifiletti of harboring racial animosity toward Black people.
Trifiletti reportedly told the Saint Paul Police Department that he saw Lewis “reaching toward his waistband as he advanced,” the supposed reason for shooting Lewis four times at close range. To make matters worse, Trifiletti tried to imply that Lewis identified himself as a gang member. However, two witnesses said they never heard Lewis say that he was “GD,” a reference to the Gangster Disciples street gang.
“White people can get away with killing a black man by saying they were afraid,” Lewis’ sister, Valerie Lewis, told the Star Tribune.
A tweet from a person who identified Lewis as “my kids [sic] father” tweeted a screenshot of a direct message on her phone that described Trifiletti in part as “afraid of the black community” and declared that “This is a race case 1000%.” The tweet pointed to Trifiletti’s social media activity as proof of his racism against Black people.
Trifiletti was being held on $1 million bond for the shooting.
The apparent vigilante shooting came a week after it was reported that two white men racially profiled a Black jogger before hunting him down and shooting him to death in Georgia in February. Those men have been shielded by Georgia’s law for citizen’s arrests, which the father and son said they were trying to do when they gunned down 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. As of Tuesday, they had avoided any criminal charges and remained free.
Trifiletti’s shooting of Lewis was also reminiscent of a similar road rage killing nearly one year ago to the date when Hannah Payne claimed to be the victim of a hit and run in Clayton County, Georgia. The then-21-year-old white woman drove after the other driver — 62-year-old Kenneth Herring — for nearly a mile, managed to box-in his car with hers, got out and shot him to death. It turns out that Herring may have been in diabetic shock during the collision and when Payne shot him in his car. Payne’s trial was supposed to begin early this year but has been delayed presumably by the coronavirus pandemic. In a case of poetic justice, at least, a Black woman judge was assigned to preside over Payne’s trial.
We’ll be watching to see how Trifiletti’s case plays out.