Change the crime code
Richard Poplawski probably won’t be charged with a hate crime, but he ought to be.
When the Stanton Heights man opened fire on Pittsburgh police Saturday, killing three of them and wounding a fourth, he wasn’t aiming at Jews, though he believes Jews are responsible for the downfall of the American financial system as we know it.
Neither was he aiming at blacks, though one of the slain officers, Eric Kelly, was of that minority.
He was aiming at police, and that offense contains its own necessarily harsh emphasis in our crime code.
But charging him with a hate crime doesn’t appear to be an option, even though hatred for people he doesn’t understand almost certainly drove him to keep in his house the weapons he used to shoot the officers.
Hatred was a factor in the shooting, that’s why we believe it was a hate crime.
But the Uniform Crime Report of the FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed against a person, property or society, which is motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity/national origin.”
That doesn’t appear to cover this
“I’m not sure he was motivated by hate, color, race, religion or national origin,” said Bruce Ledewitz, professor of law at Duquesne University. “He was shooting at police officers, so I’m not sure it is true based on the facts, but it’s true of the act itself.”
Maybe it’s time to change the law. If a man’s actions lead to another’s death, that man can be held responsible under the law. That naturally should extend to a man’s hatred.
Understand, if the law were broadened, it doesn’t necessarily mean Poplawski would spend a single day more in prison or be executed any quicker.
It would, however, correctly define his actions for the record. And that’s a moral statement society should make.
Those officers are dead for one reason and one reason only: another man’s unreasonable hatred.