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Indian Country Today: Native Family Allegedly Attacked by Skinheads


-By Valerie Taliman

June 27, 2011- Johnny and Lisa Bonta, a Native family from the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, became the latest victims of an apparent hate crime on May 24 when they were allegedly attacked at a gas station along I-80 in Fernley, Nevada, a border town between the Fallon and Pyramid Lake Indian reservations.

“I was pumping gas at Quick Stop on our way to Reno to look for another job when these skinheads in a blue car drove by real slow and checked us out.  The driver jumped out with a baseball bat, and I asked them ‘why you holding a bat?” said Bonta. “He said ‘let’s do this’ and tried to pick a fight. I don’t know how to explain what happened—we didn’t do anything to them.”

Bonta, a Paiute member of the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, says he tried to avoid the confrontation by telling them he didn’t want to fight. He got back in the car, with his son-in-law Shane Murray at the wheel, and they quickly drove away with the carload of skinheads in close pursuit.

As they approached the freeway ramp, they were cut off as the blue car swerved in front of them, then slammed on the brakes, causing Murray to crash into it.  Murray said he recognized one of the attackers as Jacob Cassell, a former classmate and son of retired Lyon County Sheriff officer Jim Cassell.

“They all jumped out of the car with baseball bats, knives and a crowbar, and we knew they were going to hurt us,” said Lisa Bonta, in an interview from Washoe Medical Center, where she was in treatment for seizures she suffers.

The fight broke out on the highway after 1 p.m. and while traffic was passing by, no one would stop to help them. Lisa and her daughter, Alyssa, were terrified watching the brutal and bloody fight as her unarmed husband and son-in-law tried to fight off the three young men in their 20s.

“I saw one of them hit my husband in the head with a bat, and the other one was trying to cut off his braid with a knife.  Johnny was covered in blood and they just kept hitting him with a crow bar.  They even tried to slit his throat,” she added.

“Jacob Cassell had my son-in-law on the ground in a chokehold and Shane was turning blue. My daughter was sobbing ‘they’re killing him’ and somehow she found the strength to hit Jacob in self-defense so he would release Shane.”

It was then, Lisa said, that Cassell turned his anger on her and her daughter, jumping on the hood of their car while swinging a baseball bat and cursing at them.

“I’m a 46 year-old woman with serious health problems, and I tried to defend myself, but he hit me across the lower back with his bat, calling us ‘niggers and river monsters,” said Lisa, who is Anglo. “He pointed at Alyssa and said he would rape her the next time he saw her in Fernley, where she lives.”

Meanwhile, Johnny Bonta was knocked unconscious with a bat, his nose and sinus cavities broken and bleeding, with stab wounds on his neck.

Lisa said Jacob Cassell taunted the family as the sirens approached, telling them, “You hear those cops coming? They’re not going to help you. My daddy is a cop in this town, and nothing is going to happen to me. You fucking niggers are going to jail.”

When Lyon County Sheriff’s officers arrived, they took statements and began filling out police reports with Cassell and his friends, but they did not take statements from any of the victims. When Lisa asked why they were not being questioned for a statement, no one responded. “They ignored us,” she said, before she suffered a seizure and required medical attention.

Three ambulances responded to the scene and took Lisa, Alyssa and Murray away for treatment; Murray’s injuries included a crushed elbow and broken hand.

Johnny Bonta, bleeding and barely standing after being hit in the knees with a bat, was arrested on the scene and taken to jail. He said he was not allowed medical treatment for six days while he was in the county jail, all the while uncertain about what charges had been filed against him.

FULL STORY HERE:

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