A California couple affiliated with neo-Nazi skinheads and accused of fatally shooting and stabbing a black Navy veteran during an attack at a gas station have been charged with murder as a hate crime, authorities said.
Christina Garner, 42, of Manteca, and Jeremy Jones, 49, of Stockton, had already been charged with murder after last week’s shooting, which left 30-year-old Justin Peoples dead.
San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said on Friday she believes her office had collected enough evidence to update charges against Garner and Jones to murder as a hate crime.
Peoples, a father-of-two working two jobs, had pulled up at a Chevron gas station in Tracy, about 60 miles from San Francisco, around 9pm on March 15.
Garner and Jones shot and stabbed Peoples multiple times, before fleeing the scene, authorities said.
Peoples was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died hours later, and the couple was arrested the following day.
Tracy law enforcement determined the attack was ‘a senseless act of violence,’ but the DA added the hate crime charges against Garner and Jones after reviewing evidence that linked them to the skinheads and the Aryan Brotherhood.
In court evidence shared by prosecutors of Jones, the words ‘WHITE’ and ‘PRIDE’ can be seen inked on the skin on the back of his right and left biceps. A closeup of a skeleton tattoo on Jones’ back also shows a swastika.
The couple is in police custody and is expected back in court for an arraignment hearing on April 4.
Christina Garner, 42, of Manteca, and Jeremy Jones, 49, of Stockton, had been charged with murder after last week’s shooting, which left 30-year-old Justin Peoples dead. On Friday, the San Jose County DA upgraded the charges to murder as a hate crime
The word ‘white’ is tattooed in capital letters on the back of Jones’s left biceps
The word ‘pride’ is tattooed in capital letters on the back of Jones’s right biceps
A close up of a skeleton tattoo on Jones’ back also shows a swastika
Navy veteran Justin People, 30, a father-of-two, was stabbed and shot multiple times
‘There is no place for hate in our community. No one should be victimized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion,’ Salazar said in a statement after filing hate crime charges against Garner and Jones.
‘These types of crimes are reprehensible and my administration will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law to hold those who perpetuate hate accountable.’
Prosecutors said they were able to collect evidence against the defendants from posts they had made on social media showing off their tattoos and alluding to Norse mythology and symbols misused by white supremacists, The Daily Beast reported.
Jones had recently got a tattoo with Garner’s name, CHRISTINA, across his neck, and commented he got inked because he wanted to show his love for her.
‘I Love my family and my brothers and sisters with a love that I feel in my gut .It’s not some fake I can’t wait to get rid of you love… I will tell you this one time stay out of my way and away from my people. We got some [living] to do. Victory or Va[l]halla,’ Jones wrote on Facebook in November.
Valhalla, a heaven where heroes go in Norse mythology, has been mis-referenced by white supremacists trying to find a link between the mythology and racial purity.
Garner and Jones are expected in court for an arraignment hearing on April 4
On March 15, the Tracy Police Department responded to reports of a man suffering from a gunshot wound at the Chevron gas station on North Tracy Boulevard.
Officers arrived at the scene and found Peoples with a gunshot and multiple stab wounds.
Tracy detectives said they learned that Peoples was involved in a confrontation with Garner and Jones before the deadly shooting.
The following day, Tracy Police Department Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and Special Enforcement Team (SET) took Garner into custody in connection with Peoples’ death.
A third person, 58-year-old Christopher Angelo Dimenco, was also arrested for helping Jones and Garner’s escape the scene.
‘There is no room for hate in Tracy or anywhere,’ Tracy Police Chief Sekou Millington said after the charges were filed on Friday.
‘When community members are victims of crimes related to hare, we will use our resources to bring those responsible to justice,’ he added.
Jones has a long criminal history dating to 2007 and include charges for stolen property and violent felonies
A criminal complaint filed by the San Jose County District Attorney’s Office said the attack on Peoples was unprovoked
On Friday, prosecutors updated murder charges against Garner and Jones to murder as a hate crime
‘He was a remarkable young man,’ Peoples’ father, Maurice, said on Monday. ‘This is where racism stops. It stops right here. Justice for Justin.’
Maurice said he had received a text from his son hours before the murder, telling him he’d meet Maurice the next day for lunch.
‘It’s going to always hurt. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,’ the grieving father told Channel 3000.
‘It’s going to be a long hard trial and tribulation in my heart.’
Maurice also said his son was working two jobs and saving to buy a home.
‘I don’t care what color you are – stand for this baby who didn’t deserve to die,’ another relative of People, Bernice Bass, said Monday.
Jones has a long criminal history dating to 2007 and include charges for stolen property and violent felonies.
Peoples had been arrested earlier this year and charged with drug and firearm possession after police seized Ecstasy, Xanax, crack cocaine, fentanyl and LSD found inside his vehicle, according to a Facebook statement by the San Jose County Sheriff’s Office last month.