A second attack in just as many weeks is reigniting calls for police in St. Louis, Missouri to investigate assaults being waged against the city’s Bosnian population as possible hate crimes.
Early Friday morning, a 26-year-old Bosnian woman was reportedly stopped by three armed black men while driving through the St. Louis neighborhood of Bevo Mill.
According to KTVI News, the woman – whose identity was not reported – was violently removed from her car, robbed, and attacked – and then called an anti-Bosnian slur.
“They threatened to do harm to her because she was Bosnian,” St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told the news network. “The fact pattern indicates that whether it was targeted because she was Bosnian or once they found out she was Bosnian the crime continued and accelerated.”
“I was very concerned about it so we’re investigating it as a hate crime,” continued Dotson, who added that the FBI has since been alerted to the incident as well.
But with Bevo Hill’s large Bosnian population still reeling from another assault days earlier – one which led to the death of 32-year-old Zemir Begic – the local community wants law enforcement to get to the bottom of what some fear could become a trend.
“She is afraid for her family, for her family’s safety. She is so afraid for her family safety. She doesn’t feel well too since my niece to school,” the brother of the woman targeted last week told KTVI.
Late last month, Bevo Hill made headlines when Begic, another Bosnian resident, was attacked by four teenagers while driving through the neighborhood – the most densely Bosnian community in the country. Chief Dotson said at the time that there was “no indication” that the black and Hispanic suspects sought in connection with that attack targeted Begic because of his ethnicity. The victim’s friends and family argued otherwise, however, with those claims now being reignited with last week’s attack.
“This has all the appearances of a hate crime based on the information that we have,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told KMOX following Friday’s event. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Slay recently met with the head of the local Bosnian Chamber of Commerce and has pledged to concentrate resources in the community on the heels of the recent incidents.
“Overall the whole neighborhood is on alert,” Alderman Carol Howard added to the paper. “There’s been an uptick in crime since August. I really do believe it has set off a sense of lawlessness.”
One Bevo Hill resident told the CBS News affiliate that he agreed that attack and others may be racially motivated, but not necessarily meant to be directed at Bosnians in particular.
“I think it’s just blacks taking there aggression out on anybody that’s white,” Michael Tallie of Bevo Hills told KMOX. “It’s bad, it’s messed up, I hate it.”
According to The Atlantic, around 70,000 Bosnians resided in St. Louis as of last year – more than any location outside of Bosnia.