‘Hail Hitler’ messages found on phone of suspect accused of gunning down Black man: court records

The cellphone of a white defendant charged with the shooting death of a Black man in Moreno Valley, California, contained racial slurs about African Americans, along with the phrases “white power,” and “Hail Hitler,” court records show.

Darren Peter Zesk, 19, was charged with the first-degree murder of Massai Cole, along with special circumstances that the slaying was a hate crime. Zesk’s nephew, 19-year-old Jared Lee Zesk, is also charged with Cole’s slaying, but without the special circumstances, the Press-Enterprise reports. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Darren Zesk could possibly face the death penalty if prosecutors pursue the hate crime charge.

"On the night of the slaying, Darren Zesk shot Cole after luring him out of the party on the pretext that someone he identified as his 'cousin' was waiting at the front of the house for a one-on-one fight with Cole, according to testimony from an investigator at the closed hearing," the Press-Enterprise reports. "The Zesks had left the party in the 16500 block of Century Street shortly after midnight when Jared lost a fight, then returned about an hour later, according to testimony."

Deputy District Attorney Michael Kersse told the grand jurors that the reason Cole was killed "was because he was an African American male."

"...and Mr. Darren Zesk had a state of mind where he had hatred of African Americans and that’s why he selected Massai Cole."