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Colorado man sentenced after pleading guilty to hate crime, slashing Black man's neck in Oregon

Nolan Strauss_Malheur County Sheriff’s Office
Arbys in Pilot Travel Center in Ontario, Oregon
Posted at 7:15 AM, Sep 10, 2021

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Colorado trucker who nearly killed a Black man by slashing his neck in an unprovoked attack at an eastern Oregon truck stop has been sentenced to 16 years in federal prison.

Nolan Strauss, a 27-year-old white man from Colorado Springs, pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime involving an attempt to kill, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

According to an indictment, a 48-year-old Black man walked into an Arby’s next to the Pilot Travel Center along Interstate 84 in Ontario, Oregon on Dec. 21, 2019 so he could provide final documentation for his job application. While waiting for the manager, he sat down in the lobby of the restaurant. Without warning, Strauss, who was also in the lobby, approached him from behind and stabbed him twice in the neck, according to the indictment. Strauss had cut his jugular vein and the victim started bleeding, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

After a struggle, the victim was able to free himself and ran to the other side of the restaurant and collapsed on the floor, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Employees tried to help the victim and a maintenance worker used a belt to secure Strauss's hands behind his back. The employee asked why Strauss attacked the man. He replied he did so because the man “was Black, and I don’t like Black people," according to the indictment.

The injured man was light-flighted to Boise, Idaho for emergency surgery.

In two interviews with the police later that day, Strauss said he believed Black people are "manipulative, lacking morality, and not good people,” according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Strauss told police that the color of the victim’s skin was his “only problem with him.”

Strauss pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime in June.

His lawyer argued that Strauss committed the crime because he was off his mental health medication and was having a manic episode.

But prosecutors said there was no mistaking Strauss’ racial animosity in the ambush.

“This defendant is being held accountable for his brutal and racially-motivated attack against a Black man carried out because of the color of his skin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Racially motivated attacks have no place in our society, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws that prohibit bias motivated violence.”

Strauss was sentenced to 16 years in prison and five years’ supervised release.

Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug for the District of Oregon said the sentence should "send a clear message to anyone contemplating similar acts of violence: hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated."