Michigan man sends hateful message, threatening a Black woman’s life.
Ronald Wyatt, a 22-year-old White man of Taylor, Michigan, has pleaded guilty to obstructing a Black Metro Detroit woman’s freedom to exercise her religion after he made a racially motivated, threatening comment to her regarding a planned attack at her church. He affirmed in U.S. District Court in Detroit that he “intentionally threatened physical harm to the woman on Facebook” and said, “he targeted her because she is Black,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Specifically, At his plea hearing, Wyatt admitted that “on July 23, 2019 he used Facebook to send the woman a message: ‘See you at church on Wednesday night with my AK to put you and your n—– family down [explicit].’”
The woman targeted had brought Wyatt meals after his father passed, according to investigators, which makes his racially motivated threat even more puzzling. He was living in a trailer park within walking distance to the church and authorities indicated he had been diagnosed bipolar.
“No American should face threats towards their life, or the lives of their loved ones, based on their race or religion,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “These actions are reprehensible. The Justice Department takes these matters very seriously and works to ensure that those who perpetrate these actions see justice under the law.”
“The defendant’s actions in this case are truly reprehensible,” echoed U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan. “Although the First Amendment protects free speech, it doesn’t give anyone the right to obstruct the free exercise of religious beliefs by threatening violence or bodily harm. Prosecuting those who violate the civil rights of Michigan citizens is some of the most important work we do. This plea today is the first step towards justice for this innocent victim.”
“Mr. Wyatt used threats of violence to terrorize an innocent woman and as a result hindered the victim’s ability to freely practice her religion,” explained Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono, of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office. “Hate crimes like this one have profound effects not only on the victims, but also on their families and communities, making them feel vulnerable and unsafe. No arrest or conviction can undo the harm but will hopefully provide a measure of justice for the victim, her family and her community.”
Wyatt’s mother told authorities when interviewed that her son had not attended the church for some time because he was a drug user and some of the congregation’s members had rejected this. He was angry with many of them and stopped going when word got out.
Wyatt’s plea comes during the widespread Black Lives Matter movement, a time in which there are continued protests against all racially motivated violence against Black people. The BLM movement was sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. According to supporters, “#BlackLivesMatter Global Network builds power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe.”
His sentencing is scheduled to take place sometime next year, and as part of the deal, Wyatt is facing up to one year in prison for the threats.