A Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime after he harassed two Muslim teenagers who were wearing hijabs before violently attacking their father with a knife.
Christopher Beckham, 35, of Nashville pleaded guilt to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Justice Department said in a Monday statement.
Acting U.S. Attorney Mary Jane Stewart described the Oct. 24, 2017 incident as a “cowardly and unprovoked attack” that displayed “hate-filled aggression” toward the innocent young girls and their father.
Beckham reportedly saw the two teenagers walking after they got off their school bus and began yelling “Allahu Akbar!” and “Go back to your country!”
When their father arrived to pick up the girls from the bus stop to take them home, Beckham attacked the man with a knife and punched him. The father suffered unspecified injuries in the assault, according to the statement.
The mother of the girls then arrived on the scene with her young child in her car and Beckham chased after them, still holding the knife.
Authorities said that when police took Beckham away, he called the family “terrorists,” made other derogatory comments and pledged to kill them when released from custody.
“Beckham further admitted that he carried out this assault because of the actual and perceived religion and national origin of the victims, namely that he perceived them to be Muslim and of a nationality other than American,” the statement read.
His guilty plea comes after his federal trial in September 2019 ended with a hung jury. He will be sentenced Oct. 7.