Courtier gets life for hate crime killing

Crime

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The man who chased a black teenager with his car and intentionally ran him over outside a 7-Eleven was sentenced to life in prison.

The August 2016 incident killed 19-year-old Larnell Bruce

Russell Courtier received his sentence on Tuesday morning. The State of Oregon previously presented evidence showing that Courtier is a white supremacist.

Colleen Hunt was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in the 2016 killing of Larnell Bruce, April 16, 2019 (KOIN)

In March, Courtier’s girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for her role in the 19-year-old’s death. She was sentenced Tuesday afternoon to 10 years in prison.

Multnomah County Judge Jerry Hodson handed down the life sentence to Courtier after hearing emotional pleas from the Bruce family. He will not be eligible for parole for 32 years.

Larnell’s stepmother, Natasha Bruce, pleaded with the judge to hand down the harshest possible sentence under the law.

Courtier was convicted March 19 of murder, felony hit and run, and 2nd-degree intimidation, which is Oregon’s hate crime statute. Hodson set Courtier’s sentences on each to run consecutively, not concurrently.

Natasha Bruce, the stepmother of Larnell Bruce, addresses Russell Courtier at his sentencing for killing the teen, April 16, 2019 (KOIN)

At the time he killed Bruce, Courtier was a member of the “European Kindred,” a white supremacist prison gang. 

Prosecutor Dave Hannon said Courtier was part of that gang by choice.

“It stemmed from his racist desire to be a part of a ‘brotherhood.’ This is an appropriate sentence given that the jury found Russell Courtier’s actions of murdering Larnell Bruce were motivated by his perception of Mr. Bruce’s race or the color of his skin.”

Outside of court, the Bruce family said they were satisfied with the sentence Courtier received. 

“I feel like in any situation like this you would never get what you really want,” Natasha Bruce said. But the fact there is no possibility he’ll be on the streets for decades at least “is some type of relief for us and whoever else may have to deal may have to deal with this man again.”

Larnell Bruce Sr. said he “thought it went pretty well. I thank the City of Portland for standing up. It was pretty brave for 12 people to stand up there and talk for the rest of Portland.”

Bruce Sr. talked directly to Courtier in court and said Courtier’s son “will now have to live without a father and everything that happened today, I’m sure, is going to have some kind of reflection on his son.”

Larnell Bruce Sr. addresses his son's killer, Russell Courtier, at his sentencing in Multnomah County, April 16, 2019 (KOIN)

He said it wasn’t until he took the time to realize what Courtier also lost “that it made sense to me that it does me no good to approach it angrily, because that’s what got us here to begin with.”

When he died, the Bruce family made the decision to donate Larnell’s organs. Natasha Bruce listed the 5 people who got the gift of life from her son and said they want to bring awareness to how organ donations save lives.

The family also started a non-profit, Love and Live #LarnellBruce. “We’re going to advocate and help victims of hate crime,” she said. “We’d like to give help to anybody who’s gone through what we have gone through.”

A photo collage of Larnell Bruce on display during the sentencing of the teen's killer, Russell Courtier, April 16, 2019 (KOIN)

The fight

Bruce and Courtier got into a fight outside the 7-Eleven at East Burnside and Southeast 188th. A store clerk said he saw Courtier picking up a tire iron.

An undated photo of Larnell Bruce provided by Gresham Police.
An undated photo of Larnell Bruce provided by Gresham Police.

According to Gresham police, Bruce’s head was smashed into a glass window, but he got up and left before police arrived.

However, when police rounded the corner from Burnside onto 188th, they heard screams coming from the north and immediately headed toward the disturbance. 

Just north of the 7-Eleven, police found Bruce on the sidewalk suffering from critical and life-threatening wounds after he was run over by the Jeep.

Police and bystanders said Bruce was doing everything to get away from his attackers.

“We do have witnesses that say the man was on the sidewalk, all the evidence points that way – that he was trying to get away from these folks and they were actively seeking to hurt him,” said Gresham Police Officer John Rasmussen told KOIN 6 News at the time.

After allegedly hitting Bruce, Courtier and Hunt left the scene, but were found near 185th and Sandy.

Initially, the couple was charged with attempted murder, 1st-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon.

What court documents revealed

After their arrests, court documents showed that there was surveillance video of Courtier and Bruce getting into a physical fight.

According to the documents, Bruce was making “evasive maneuvers on foot in an attempt to escape Mr. Courtier and his red Jeep.”

The moment Bruce was run down isn’t captured on camera, but the video shows Courtier accelerating toward Bruce, records show.

According to the witness, there were 2 attempts to run Bruce down.

The first attempt narrowly missed Bruce, “but (Courtier) circled around and chased after Mr. Bruce,” court documents state.

Hunt told detectives that she was the passenger inside the red Jeep involved with the crash. She confirmed to detectives that she “encouraged Mr. Courtier to fight the male by yelling ‘get him baby, get him baby.'”

Records show that during the fight in the parking lot, Bruce pulled out a machete and that’s when Courtier stopped fighting and got into his Jeep.

Following Bruce’s death

As authorities looked further into the incident, they believed Bruce’s death was a hate crime.

A grand jury re-indicted Courtier and Hunt with charges of intimidation in September 2016.

According to the indictment, which was first obtained by KOIN 6 News, Courtier and Hunt acted together and based on “their perception of the race and color of Larnell Burce [did] intentionally cause physical injury to Larnell Bruce.”

In December 2017, a Multnomah County judge ruled prosecutors can’t use statements Courtier made to police because the detective talked to the man after he asked for an attorney.

Detective Aaron Turnage stopped an initial interview when Courtier asked for a lawyer. But hours later, Turnage told Courtier Bruce would likely die and Courtier began to talk.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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