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Native American Family Attacked in Possible Hate Crime

Native American Family Attacked in Possible Hate Crime

Not only did a Native American family endure a horrific attack by three men with a baseball bat, knife and crowbar near a gas station in Fernley, Nevada on May 24 that led to them losing their car, going bankrupt and unable to return home. The three men followed the family of Johnny Bonta, cut them off as they tried to drive onto a highway ramp and then brutally beat Bonta and his son-in-law Shawn Murray.

No one stopped to help the family and when police did come, they only took statements from the attackers (who later bragged about the assault on Facebook) and arrested Bonta. While his wife, Lisa Bonta, daughter Alyssa and Murray were taken to the hospital, Bonta was jailed for six days before receiving medical treatment — authorities said he had an outstanding $367 fine — and then charged with battery with a deadly weapon (though Bonta had no weapon). Two Indian Health Service doctors agreed to treat Bonta, but jail officials would not let them.

The actual details will only leave you more incredulous.

The FBI is now investigating the attack in Fernley as a hate crime. Lyon County District Attorney Robert Auer counters that the attack was more of a “mutual fight.”

As Arlen Melendez, Chairman of Reno-Sparks Indian Colony where the Bontas live, points out in an article published on the Indian Country Today Web site:

…Nevada in the past has a reputation of being the “Mississippi of the West” for racism problems.

“We need to put pressure on law enforcement and the judicial system to ensure the Bontas are treated fairly,” he said in the article. “Our main concern is that these attacks need to be taken very seriously and fully investigated as hate crimes.”

Melendez said in a Wednesday interview he is not calling what happened a hate crime.

“I’m saying incidents like that should be fully investigated by a neutral party,” Melendez said.

One of the attackers, Jacob Cassell, is the son of a former deputy for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, rendering that office not exactly a “neutral party.” District Attoney Auer says that the “best evidence authorities have” is that the Bontas pursued the three men; he says that he “would like to hear the Bonta side of the story” but claims that “the people involved are not talking.” The Sheriff’s office says they “don’t have enough evidence” to put Cassell in the “category” of being a skinhead or member of a “rascist gang.”

Meanwhile, the Bontas have been trying to get on with their life. After two weeks and (once again) without the help of the police, they found their car in an impoundment yard with its tires flat. As Bonta is still recovering from his injuries, he’s unable to work and he and his family members (his wife, who has health problems, was also hit with the bat) are walking to doctors’ appointments. Daily Kos reports that the Bontas have contacted the ACLU and are trying to get a lawyer to represent them.

As Forbes says,

..not to sound too old-fashioned, but when a confrontation occurs between three men in their 20’s and a family with a middle-aged man and two women, it’s hard to see how it could have been ‘mutual’ by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it difficult to grasp why the Bontas aren’t cooperating with police, either, given the circumstances.

Despite the statements of the Lyon County authorities, let’s hope the FBI’s hate crimes investigation can clarify not only what actually happened on May 24 in Fernley, but why law enforcement officers treated the Bontas as second-class citizens, if that.

A Facebook page calling for justice for Bonta and his family has been created; you can also donate to help them.

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Photo of Alyssa Bonta our daughter, Johnny Bonta, and Barbara Happy(Johnnys Mother) from the Facebook page calling for justice for Bonta and his family.

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195 comments

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7:30AM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

1:49AM PDT on May 28, 2012

Jennifer G.- why is your story without any supporting sources?
I'm willing to read, but you laid out a rather long story defending your brother, but without a single reference to anyone, anywhere who corroborates your version of events.
Help others see your side by showing where this can be researched.

7:27AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

Can we spell D-I-S-C-R-I-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. Justice gone mad!

5:15PM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

If these people aren't locked up for beating up Bonta and his family, it shows a serious problem with the justice system. Prayers go to Bonta's family.

3:57PM PDT on Aug 6, 2011

Nic F. Jul 21, 2011 2:18 AM.
Tried sending you a Green Star but it seems I'm over my limit.

Jennifer G. Jul 26, 2011 3:13 PM,Jul 26, 2011 3:15 PM, Jul 26, 2011 3:16 PM,. I guess that's called unbiased reporting when the one presenting the "facts" are closely related to one of the accused...

3:17PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

Sorry for the spilt up comments, I had to enter my comment in 3 sections, due to limited space…

Have a blessed day,
Jen

3:16PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

every chance he got. The police were actively trying to take a statement from Alyssa, when she left with he mother to the hospital… Lisa (mother) stated she was having a seizure and that is why she went to the hospital not because of anyone hurting her, Alyssa left on her on accord without giving a proper statement. The police have stated that they gave out statement paperwork and have tried to contact Bonta’s, the Bonta’s have not responded.***
***BONTA and MURRAY did have weapons!!***
.
Hate Crimes do NEED to be taken very seriously and when people like the Bonta’s LIE like this, it is directly abusing the whole idea of Justice in America….
Jacob Cassell is an upstanding young man, who loves his interracial family, who is devoted to helping people of all hues in his community and who is true to his friends no matter what their skin tone is… There is absolutely NO WAY that these boys are affiliated with Nazi’s….
People PLEASE seriously look into FACTS before you just blindly believe any drama filled story that you hear… I am a Hispanic woman, who lives in Fernley and has not had issues with racism from the community and especially not from my brother, Jacob Cassell…

Search for facts if Justice is what you seek and STOP this witch hunt!!

3:15PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

a highway ramp… It happened on a side street that Cassell went down trying to avoid Bonta, that is were Bonta following Cassell t-boned Cassell’s car as Cassell tried to make a turn*** BY THE WAY THERE ARE EYE WITNESSES TO THIS FIGHT and PHYSICAL EVIDENCE to the car’s that back up Cassell.***
From ‘story’:
No one stopped to help the family and when police did come, they only took statements from the attackers (who later bragged about the assault on Facebook) and arrested Bonta. While his wife, Lisa Bonta, daughter Alyssa and Murray were taken to the hospital, Bonta was jailed for six days before receiving medical treatment — authorities said he had an outstanding $367 fine — and then charged with battery with a deadly weapon (though Bonta had no weapon). Two Indian Health Service doctors agreed to treat Bonta, but jail officials would not let them.
FACT:
***The eye witnesses were NDOT workers that did call the police right away, there was NO other people passing by, the happened on an isolated side street in Fernley***

***No one bragged about committing a Hate Crime, Josh said that after getting t-boned and jumped then he fought back… read the whole post and really tell me where these 20 year old boys (who were just attacked) actually say that they intentionally went after someone???***

***Bonta/Murray were leaving the site when the cops showed up, Bonta ended up giving and false name to the police and trying to side step ev

3:13PM PDT on Jul 26, 2011

It’s interesting how often this story changes the more that the “Bonta” side tells it… Also just in case anyone is actually interested in facts versus the story that is posted on this website:

From ‘story’:
“Not only did a Native American family endure a horrific attack by three men with a baseball bat, knife and crowbar near a gas station in Fernley, Nevada on May 24 that led to them losing their car, going bankrupt and unable to return home. The three men followed the family of Johnny Bonta, cut them off as they tried to drive onto a highway ramp and then brutally beat Bonta and his son-in-law Shawn Murray.”
FACT:
***Bonta/Murray rammed Cassell’s car, got out of their car and started beating in the windows of Cassell’s car with the crow bar and golf club that Bonta/Murray had with them***
***Jacob and Josh did not even get out of their car until they were being attacked***
***The Bonta’s lost their car because they were driving it illegally and then committed a crime by ramming into the back drivers side of another car!***
***They had money trouble WAY before the fight and they have returned home plenty; the Bonta’s have been seen all over Fernley since the fight (if they actually lost their house, that is not due to Jacob and Josh)***
***This fight (if that’s what you want to call it when Bonta attacked Cassell, then cried hate crime when Cassell fought back…) did NOT happen on or even near

9:18AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

The Bonta family have more right to be in America than the "men" who did this. They are "Natives", the "men" are descended from VERY illegal immigrants. The policemen should be fired and charged with wrongful arrest, assault and illegal imprisonment.

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