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Nov. 29, 2020

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Two Auburn men charged with hate crime after allegedly chasing, beating Black man

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Two Auburn men were charged Tuesday with committing a hate crime, accused of chasing and beating a Black man — who they said rear-ended their car — while yelling slurs at him in Federal Way.

Travis Phillips, 34, and Eric Wise, 33, were arrested early Monday and booked into King County Jail, court and jail records show. They’re both being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Last year, the state Legislature changed the name of the crime previously known as “malicious harassment” to “hate crime.” A hate crime is committed when someone threatens, injures or damages property based on perceptions of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical or sensory disability.

According to probable-cause documents filed Tuesday, Federal Way police officers responded to reports of a dispute in the 30300 block of Ninth Avenue South around 12:40 a.m. Monday. Before they arrived, they received another call reporting two white men were assaulting a Black man, charging documents said.

When officers arrived, they spotted a silver sedan with rear-end damage run a stop sign at the corner of South 304th Street and 10th Avenue South, then accelerate south. When they pulled over the driver — later identified as Phillips — they saw both men inside the car had blood on their hands, according to charging documents.

When one officer asked if they were hurt, they said that they weren’t, and that they had chased and beat someone who rear-ended their car, according to the charging documents. Phillips told the officer the other person involved in the hit-and-run was “down the road by his BMW.”

The officer found the victim shortly after with “severe facial injuries” — his eyes were swollen shut and he was bleeding profusely, charging documents said. Medics arrived at the scene, treated him and transported him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

A witness who lives nearby identified Phillips and Wise as the two men he saw assaulting the victim and told police he had come outside after hearing voices in front of his house earlier that night. When he stepped outside, he saw one of the men punching someone sitting in the driver’s seat of a BMW, while yelling racial slurs. The same man pulled the victim out of the car, slammed his face against the side, then kicked him in the face and body, charging documents said.

The witness said he saw a second man walk over and also start kicking the victim.

“I beat his ass because he was a (expletive),” Phillips said to police, according to the charging documents. “(Expletive) that Black guy.”

According to the charging documents, Phillips and Wise also stole the victim’s shoes and wallet during the assault. They were also charged with first-degree robbery.

“When questioned about it, (Phillips) proudly proclaimed he did these crimes because the victim was a (B)lack man,” prosecutors wrote in the charges. “This was a brutal hate crime. These defendants are a threat to our community.”

This is the 46th hate-crime charge the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has filed this year, a department spokesperson said Tuesday. In 2019, county prosecutors filed 37 hate crime charges, and in 2018, they filed 29.

Phillips and Wise are scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 9 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

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