WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — WFMY News 2 has received multiple questions following the death of Julius Sampson. One of the most common is "Isn't this a hate crime."
Police said 22-year-old, Robert Granato shot and killed 32-year-old, Sampson in the parking lot of a BJ's restaurant. Witnesses said Granato was harassing a waitress when Sampson intervened starting the argument. Winston-Salem Police said both men exchanged a racial slur in the restaurant before the confrontation outside. That may be why some people believe the crime was racially motivated.
First, it's important to note that the investigation isn't done. Police have said repeatedly that at this time, they do not believe the shooting was racially-motivated.
We did some digging to see what exactly constitutes a hate crime. According to the FBI, a hate crime is usually something like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.
They define it as "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity." The FBI goes on to add that hate alone is not a crime.
So what does this mean? Assaulting someone because you've had a previous argument about money is a regular crime. Assaulting them explicitly because they're Jewish is a hate crime. Defacing a mosque with gang signs will likely be ruled as regular vandalism. Defacing it with Islamophobic phrases would likely be a hate crime.
Telling the difference, especially in cases of assault can be a little tricky. But they do happen. According to the center for the study of hate and extremism, hate crimes were up 9% in major cities in 2018.
In a case like Granato and Sampson's, one would have to prove that Granato explicitly targeted Sampson because of his race, ethnicity, or some other reason. Police have shown no indication that may be the case. But again, the investigation and case aren't done yet.