PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The murder trial for the couple accused of intentionally running down and killing a black teen in Gresham started Thursday.
According to prosecutors, Russell Courtier and his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, ran over 19-year-old Larnell Bruce with a 1991 Jeep Wrangler after an altercation in August 2016.
Bruce suffered critical, life-threatening injuries before later dying.
Courtier and Hunt, who was in the passenger seat, were both charged with murder and intimidation — a hate crime. They’ve pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Authorities said that race was a motivating factor in the attacks.
Prosecutors say Courtier is a member of a white supremacist group.
The defense argues Bruce was with an agressive group of people, had a machete and badly beat Courtier in the parking lot.
Court officials said the trial could last 3 weeks.
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.
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.
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.
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.