Civil rights group calls shooting of Muslim Lakewood teen a hate crime
LAKEWOOD, OH (WOIO) - A local Muslim civil rights group is calling the shooting of a 16-year-old Lakewood boy a hate crime.
Police say the teenager was shot in the arm over the weekend. He is expected to be OK.
The group says he was attacked while wearing an Islamic head covering. His family believes he was targeted because he is Muslim and they want the suspect to face hate crime charges.
The Lakewood High School student told CAIR-Cleveland he was walking home from his part-time job Saturday night on West Clifton Boulevard near Detroit Avenue when a man called him a terrorist and accused him of being in the Taliban.
The suspect shot him in the arm and ran away.
The Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, says the teen was wearing an Islamic head covering called a Kufi when he was attacked.
Lakewood Police are not calling this a hate crime at this point, but they arrested the suspect, 26-year-old Denzel Johnson, and charged him with felonious assault.
CAIR wants a judge to deny Johnson bail when he heads to a courtroom on Friday.
"Clearly because of the Kufi he was wearing, he was singled out for that and the animus originated from that and started from that. And we want to make sure that police when they present the case, that they present these elements of a possible bias crime," said Julia Shearson, executive director with CAIR-Cleveland.
They're also calling on local, state, and federal law enforcement to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
CAIR reports a spike in incidents against American Muslims since the Presidential election.
The FBI recently released hate crime statistics from 2015 that showed a 67 percent jump in anti-Muslim incidents.
"The Muslim community is not alone in this, but certainly feels vulnerable because of the political rhetoric that has come up over the last few years in our country," Shearson said.
Johnson is in jail on $10,000 bond. He'll face a judge Friday at 10 a.m.
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