When 39-year-old Terrence Lavaron Thomas asked some people at a Detroit bus stop if they were Muslim, he was not happy when they answered that they were not. So unhappy, in fact, that he stabbed them repeatedly with a 3-inch knife.
According to eyewitness reports, Thomas was standing at a Southfield, Michigan bus stop, just outside of Detroit, talking with some people waiting for the bus to arrive. He then asked them if they were Muslim, but when they said no, he pulled out the knife and began stabbing.
One of the victims, a 52-year-old Detroit man, was stabbed five times in the face, neck, and in the back, according to police reports. Another 51-year-old Detroit man stepped in to stop Thomas, but was also stabbed in the hand. Neither man suffered life-threatening injuries and were both released from Providence Hospital.
Thomas, who identified himself to police as Muslim, was caught only minutes later by police. He had in his possession two knives (one of which was thought o be used in the attack), and an amount of marijuana. All charges so far have been state offenses, but the FBI was originally expected to step in to determine if the stabbing was based on "ethnic intimidation."
Michigan's hate crime law defines "ethnic intimidation" as an instance when someone "maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin." That charge would be considered a felony and bring a much harsher penalty to Thomas if he's convicted.
But when Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper took a look at the case this week, she determined that there will be no charges of a hate crime by the state. The FBI may still bring federal hate crime charges, but that has not yet been determined.
But even in the event that Thomas isn't convicted of the crime under the pretense of it being a hate crime, the Michigan law states that, "Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a person who suffers injury to his or her person or damage to his or her property as a result of ethnic intimidation may bring a civil cause of action against the person who commits the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief."
Authorities have not yet released a statement on the attacker's motive, but Oakland County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton said the evidence doesn't support a charge of ethnic intimidation that would bring an additional two-year felony sentence.
When the story first broke, it's reported that some new agencies first stated that the attack was made against Muslims, but that was soon discovered to be false. As Briebart points out, many agencies are even afraid to add the word "Muslim" to the news report's title. "Few other news sources seemed to have any compunction over listing 'Muslim' in headlines or in their stories, though one local Michigan paper didn't seem to find the religious title of any interest at all and left 'Muslim' out of both its story and headline," Briebart states, after mentioning the fact that the Washington Post changed their original title to remove the word "Muslim."
So far, Thomas' charges include two counts of assault with intent to murder, carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent and possession of marijuana.
Thomas' pre-trial examination is expected to take place on March 4 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern in the 46th District Court. His bond has been set at $1 million.