Community activists are calling for a Deep River man to be charged with a hate crime after he was accused of pushing a child off his bike last week.
Connecticut State Police arrested 48-year-old Jameson Chapman and charged him with breach of peace, risk of injury to a child and third degree assault.
Officers arrested him after a woman shared video evidence with police showing Chapman yelling and cursing at her 11-year-old son, eventually pushing the child's bike and leaving him on the ground.
"We have to stay diligent and awake," said Desiree Dominique, the child's mother.
Dominique joined community activists in Deep River on Wednesday, calling for the state to also charge Chapman with a hate crime for the incident.
"Why did he have to single out this one, biracial Black individual?" asked Rev. Dr. Boise Kimber, president of the Connecticut State Missionary Baptist Convention. "There needs to be some real justice done."
The State's Attorneys Office is reviewing the case to determine if there should be any additional charges, including a hate crime charge.
Legal experts we spoke with said that hate crimes can be difficult to prove.
"It must be proven that the perpetrator, who becomes the defendant, was motivated by hate. That is a lot harder than it sounds," explained Judge Douglas Lavine, who is not connected to the incident in Deep River and did not discuss any individual case with NBC Connecticut.
Hate Crimes in Connecticut
Judge Douglas Lavine co-chairs the new Connecticut Hate Crimes Advisory Council. The council is tasked with presenting recommendations to state lawmakers by Oct. 1, 2022.
"Recommendations on how we can improve the investigation, prosecution, sentencing and overall response to hate crimes in our state," Lavine said.
According to the FBI, there were 102 hate crimes reported in Connecticut in 2020. Of those, 65 were motivated by a bias against someone's race or ethnicity.
"The experts that we've talked to, the FBI, the state police, all believe that this is something that can only, and will probably only, be a bigger problem over time," Lavine said.
Anticipating that, Lavine said the council is working to make sure that the state is prepared to deal with the potentially growing problem.
The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has also increased hate crime resources. Recently signed legislation requires state police to operate a Hate Crimes Investigative Unit.
The incident in Deep River has not been classified as a hate crime. Activists and family members are hoping that will change. The child's mom said she believes it should be a "no-brainer."
NBC Connecticut was not able to contact Chapman for comment. He was released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.
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