A white man is now facing hate a crime charge after fatally striking a Black man with his pickup truck in a racially motivated attack. According to The Boston Globe, witnesses heard Dean Kapsalis yell racial slurs at 35-year-old Henry Tapia during a verbal altercation. While Tapia was walking back to his car, Kapsalis hit him with his Dodge Dakota and dragged him a short distance before fleeing the scene.
Tapia was still conscious when paramedics responded and tried to stabilize him. The Boston father of three was then rushed to the Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was tragically pronounced dead.
Less than an hour later, Kapsalis turned himself in to authorities at the Belmont police station. He was charged with a civil rights violation, assault and battery and leaving the scene of a crash; and on Monday (Jan. 25) he was charged with murder.
Prosecutors are pursuing the hate crime charge, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence, due to Kapsalis’ racist threats. Witnesses said they also heard the white Massachusetts man call Tapia the N-word before running him over.
“We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is rooted in racial bias and meant to discriminate because it is not only the victims and their families who suffer; it is all of us,” Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a press conference. “It is possible that there will be other charges and it is also possible that there will be an enhancement of some of those other charges with respect to civil rights violations.”
The DA noted a recent increase in racially motivated attacks across the country and said Kapsalis’ slurs were “meant to intimidate and threaten” Tapia.
“We are reminded that incidents like this, that are allegedly born of hateful speech, have a lasting impact on families, friends and our neighbors here in this community,” she said.
Kapsalis is currently being held without bail. A future hearing is expected to determine whether he’s a danger to society.
According to WBUR Boston, hundreds gathered on Thursday (Jan. 21) for a vigil in honor of Tapia. Friends of the family told the outlet that Tapia was just one block away from home when he was killed.
“I feel like if it was police brutality, it would be nationwide; like, ‘Oh, another African American male got shot,’” his brother David said. “But this time, another racist civilian attacked another Black Latino — an Afro-Latino — and I feel the word isn’t getting spread enough. It’s another racist act.”
Courtney Morton, Tapia’s life partner, also told the outlet, “I will die being the love of his life. And I will fight for him because he couldn’t continue to fight from all the damage done.”
She added, “He’s my rock and I’m going to show him that I’m going to be the soldier he wanted me to be.”
A GoFundMe page for Tapia’s family can be found here.