The suspected white supremacist who shot and killed a Black driver in an apparent fit of racist road rage could eventually find himself a free man if legal history in Minnesota is any indication of the future. Anthony Trifiletti was arrested and charged with second-degree murder of Douglas Lewis after the shooting Friday night that stemmed from what was described as a “minor” car accident in St. Paul.
Some experts predicted that Trifiletti and his legal team would have a steep uphill battle to convince a court of law that the legally armed white man feared for his life against the unarmed and older Lewis. But others pointed to a fairly recent case that bore glaring similarities to Trifiletti’s shooting of Lewis — a case that resulted in the case being thrown out.
In 2018, Alexander Weiss, a white man, shot and killed Black teenager Muhammed Rahim “at point-blank range” following a minor car collision. “Weiss claimed he fired in self-defense after the teenager pushed him in the chest and dared him to shoot,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reminded readers on Wednesday. “Olmsted County prosecutors ultimately dismissed the second-degree murder charges last year following two mistrials. Neither jury was able to reach a unanimous verdict.”
Trifiletti reportedly told the Saint Paul Police Department that he was defending himself because he feared for his life after allegedly seeing 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.
With that said, the difference this time around could be the apparent factor of racism in the equation. 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 alleged racism against Black people.
Even more, local criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino told the Star-Tribune, “Self-defense does not mean that if you just feel scared then you can use lethal force. All force has to be reasonable to the threat.”
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.
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