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Local NAACP president speaks out on racially-motivated mass shootings over weekend

President of the Springfield NAACP Talbert Swan said events like these two shootings should remind Americans that we have not come too far in abolishing racism.
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 7:18 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Two mass shootings that occurred over the weekend are now both being considered racially motivated.

Authorities said the gunman in the deadly attack at California church was a Chinese immigrant motivated by hate for Taiwanese.

The shooting in Buffalo was racially charged towards the black community.

President of the Springfield NAACP, Talbert Swan, said events like these two shootings should remind Americans that we have not come too far in abolishing racism.

It was a deadly weekend across the country. On Saturday, an 18-yea-old man allegedly opened fire in a grocery store in the middle of a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Ten people were killed and three were seriously injured.

On Sunday, a similar act took place in a church in Orange County, California. The accused gunman was a Chinese immigrant, allegedly motivated by hate for Taiwanese. One person died and a handful more were injured.

“It’s an unspeakable, horrific tragedy,” said Swan.

He is a well-known activist in the Black Lives Matter movement, and he said racially motivated shootings like these should bring awareness to the ongoing issue of racism in our country.

“It’s often said that racism is dying with the younger generation,” said Swan, “but when you think about the fact that an 18-year-old had this much hatred in his heart toward black people, that it motivated him to the point of murder, it lets you know that racism is hardly on its death bed.”

Swan has a friend whose relative died in that shooting. He said the whole community is shaken up.

Along with being the president of the NAACP, he is also a preacher at a Springfield church. Swan said he cannot imagine a shooting taking place in what is supposed to be a most sacred place.

“We’re not safe behind the stained glasses of our churches, our mosques, our synagogues,” he told us. “We are still subject to suffer from the evil of demented individuals who are bent on making people suffer from whatever demons they are facing themselves.”

Western Mass News wanted to know if the alleged motives of these shootings would affect the severity of the crimes in court.

We took questions to Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Creaig Dunton at Western New England University. He said that if investigators can prove the shootings were a hate crime, more charges could be added.

“It could be charged as a hate crime because it’s a violation of civil rights,” Dunton told us. “It would be a federal crime, which is usually a sentence enhancement.”

These two shootings could also be considered acts of terrorism, which would also increase the gravity of the crimes.

“The case could also be made as a terrorist act because most definitions of terrorism are about violence against civilians to perpetrate an ideology or to cause fear, which that also would be additional sentence enhancements,” Dunton said.

With two shootings this weekend, and a handful more over the last month, it feels like these shootings are happening more and more.

Dunton said it feels that way because of copy-cat criminals.

“They tend to come in waves because a lot of what motivates people is some sort of attention or trying to get attention or express themselves, express something,” Dunton told us. “And when somebody gets that, whenever they hear about it, people are more likely or might be motivated to kind of jump in as well.”

Both suspects in these crimes remain in custody.