A white Kansas man pleaded guilty to threatening a Black person in September 2019 while walking down the street. On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced that Colton Donner, 27, brandished a knife at a Black person and yelled that Paola is a “white town.”
It’s unclear from local news reports how old the victim was at the time, with outlets interchangeably referencing him as a juvenile male, young Black man and Black child. But Donner threatened the person with the knife and yelled racial slurs.
“Using racially motivated threats of violence to drive someone out of their home or community is a deplorable crime, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our nation’s hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Racially motivated hate crimes have no place in our society today. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin.”
Using violence to gatekeep in white neighborhoods is an old playbook. Still, the Justice Department Is trying to course-correct compared to prior years where most reported hate crimes were not prosecuted. CNBC reported in July 2021 that the Justice Department declined to prosecute 82 percent of hate crimes between 2005 and 2019.
Approximately 45 miles outside of Kansas City, Missouri, less than 6,000 people call Paola home. Census data puts the city at 89.9 percent white, 4 percent Black and 2.8 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.
In late November 2020, Donner was charged after a federal grand jury returned an indictment charge. Local news also reported Donner was charged in a separate incident for unlawful possession of a firearm as a person convicted of a felony.
According to the Justice Department, Donner faces a $250,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
“Any attempt to deny someone an opportunity to live where he or she chooses based on race, color or national origin is wrong and a violation of that person’s civil rights,” said U.S. Attorney Duston Slinkard for the District of Kansas. “It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to prosecute such offenses to ensure the equal protection under the law to which we all are entitled, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”