The FBI is investigating an alleged hate crime against a Native American family after local law enforcement released the three white assailants without charges in May.
Indian Country Today reported that three men armed with baseball bats, knives and a crowbar confronted Johnny Bonta and his son-in-law while they were traveling along I-80 in Fernley, Nevada with their family. The three men are Neo-Nazis.
The Bontas, members of the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, said they first encountered the men at a gas station and tried to avoid confrontation by quickly driving away. But the three men pursued them in their own car, cutting them off and causing an accident. A vicious fight ensued, in which Johnny was knocked unconscious with a bat and had his nose and sinus cavities broken. His son-in-law suffered a crushed elbow and a broken hand.
"I saw one of them hit my husband in the head with a bat, and the other one was trying to cut off his braid with a knife," Johnny's wife, Lisa Bonta, said. "Johnny was covered in blood and they just kept hitting him with a crow bar. They even tried to slit his throat."
Lisa said that one of the alleged assailants, Jacob Caswell, taunted the family as police officers began arriving at the scene.
"You hear those cops coming?" he said. "They’re not going to help you. My daddy is a cop in this town, and nothing is going to happen to me. You fucking niggers are going to jail."
When police did arrive, they took statements from the three men, but not the Bonta family. Police arrested Johnny for an unpaid $367 fine while three ambulances took the rest of the family to the hospital.
Censored News reported that hours after the attack, Caswell and another alleged assailant, Josh Janiszewski, bragged about the attack on Facebook.
Janiszewski wrote, "Just layed the fists and boots to some 6' 5'' tongan dude. what you got on little guys?" and later added, "sent em to the hospital, they got fucked up man, thats for sure."
Lisa said her husband was denied medical care in the Lyon County jail, where he stayed for six days. She was told he "would have to get his Indian doctor" if he wanted to be treated.
The FBI is now looking into the attacks, but would not comment on its ongoing investigation.
The Bontas have contacted an attorney, as well as the NAACP and ACLU.
Lyon County officials claimed the incident seemed to be a "mutual fight" and said the case was still under investigation.
“We need to put pressure on law enforcement and the judicial system to ensure the Bontas are treated fairly. Our main concern is that these attacks need to be taken very seriously and fully investigated as hate crimes,” Reno Sparks Indian Colony Chairman Arlan Melendez of told the Indian Country Today.