DOJ: Nashville man pleads guilty to hate crime targeting 2 girls wearing hijabs

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 35-year-old Nashville man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to committing a hate crime stemming from an incident on October 24, 2017.  

According to the Department of Justice, Christopher Beckham admitted to shouting “Allahu Akbar!” and “Go back to your country!” at two teenage girls wearing hijabs while walking home from school.  

When the girls’ father arrived to pick them up from their school bus stop, Beckham attacked the girls’ father by swinging a knife and punching at him. After injuring their father, the girls’ mother arrived to the scene with a young child in her car. Beckham allegedly proceeded to chase after her with his knife still drawn.  

“The cowardly and unprovoked attack and display of hate-filled aggression by this defendant toward two innocent young girls and their father is despicable,” Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart said in a statement. “I commend the work of the FBI and our prosecutors in bringing this individual to justice.” 

After police took Beckham into custody, he reportedly called the family “terrorists” and said he planned to kill them after he was released.  

According to the DOJ, Beckham admitted to carrying out the act of violence because he perceived the family was Muslim.  

“The defendant confronted two young girls who were walking home from school and violently attacked their father because of how they worship,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “An attack upon the free exercise of any person’s religious beliefs is an attack on that person’s civil rights. The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute such violent acts motivated by hate.” 

In September 2019, the case was tried by a jury in U.S. District Court, which ended in a hung jury. 

“Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s Civil Rights program due to the devastating impact they have on families and communities,” said Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The FBI is committed to protecting the civil rights of all people, and we will aggressively pursue those who commit criminal offenses based on bias.” 

Beckham will be sentenced on October 7, 2021. 

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