Tribe Says His Death Was a Hate Crime. Others Aren't Sure

A killing in Washington state of a young Native American has emotions high amid tales of bias
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2018 1:59 PM CDT
A Birthday Fete, Then Allegations of Slurs, 'War Whoops'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/bensib)

ProPublica has been collecting data for its "Documenting Hate" project, and hate crimes and bias incidents against Native Americans in the US are prevalent. But one out of Grays Harbor County in Washington is in the spotlight, with Rahima Nasa focusing on the death of a 20-year-old Quinault Indian Nation member. Jimmy Smith-Kramer, along with another tribe member, was hit in the early morning of May 27, 2017, by the pickup truck of James Walker, a white man. Smith-Kramer, a high school basketball star and dad of twin toddlers, died, and the Quinault Nation deemed it a hate crime, alleging Walker or others with him had been heard hurling anti-Native American slurs and "war whoops" before the men were struck. This all is set in the context of tensions between Quinault tribe members and the local community, as well as an overall weariness of Native Americans who don't think they'll see justice if they report such crimes, per Nasa.

In Smith-Kramer's case, he'd been hanging out drinking with about 10 of his friends on the eve of his 20th birthday at the Donkey Creek campground when Walker came onto the scene and, per witnesses, started doing "donuts." Then a can of beer flew out the window, comments were made, and "suddenly Smith-Kramer and a friend, Harvey Anderson, were under the wheels of the truck." After that, it gets murky: Walker says Smith-Kramer and his friends hit his truck with rocks and that he hit them by accident (he also claims he's part Cherokee himself), and local investigators say they couldn't find clear-cut evidence it had been a hate crime. Nasa notes there's now talk of a plea deal for Walker, who's charged with first-degree manslaughter, which carries a possible life sentence. "No matter what they do to this man, it still wouldn't be enough," Smith-Kramer's aunt says. Click for the full story. (Read more Longform stories.)

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