A Tennessee man who attacked a Muslim father and yelled derogatory comments at the victim’s two daughters pleaded guilty Friday to federal hate crime charges, the Justice Department announced Monday.
35-year-old Christopher Beckham pleaded guilty to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act after he intentionally selected his victims because of their perceived religion and national origin, according to a Justice Department statement. (RELATED: NYC Judge Releases Hate Crime Suspect, Says Bail Reform Law Leaves No Choice)
HATE CRIME CONVICTION: A Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to harassing two Muslim girls who were walking home from school, & later attacking their father.
Learn more: https://t.co/8ilGG2aKlS
— WTVC NewsChannel 9 (@newschannelnine) May 18, 2021
“The defendant confronted two young girls who were walking home from school and violently attacked their father because of how they worship,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said.
Tennessee Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crimehttps://t.co/t6qEqOXjYC
— DOJ Civil Rights (@CivilRights) May 17, 2021
Beckham saw two teenage girls wearing hijabs getting off a school bus in October 2017 and yelled “Allahu Akbar” and “Go back to your country!” the statement said.
When the two girls’ father arrived to pick them up from the bus stop, Beckham swung a knife and punched the father, injuring him, according to the statement. The girls’ mother drove to the scene with a young child in the car and Beckham chased after the mother and child with his knife still out.
Beckham called the family “terrorists” while in police custody and said he would kill them once he was released, according to the statement. He also admitted that he was motivated to attack the victims because he perceived them to be Muslim and of a different nationality.
“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program due to the devastating impact they have on families and communities,” Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said.
Beckham’s trial in September 2019 ended in a hung jury. He will be sentenced on October 7, 2021, according to the statement.