I’m still reeling from Nathan Allen’s murderous actions, a rampage which began when he stole a white box truck, hit a car, crashed into a house and jumped off the wrecked vehicle with two guns blazing.
Somehow, I thought it would be a relief to know that the 28-year-old Winthrop resident had no accomplices in fatally gunning down David Green and Ramona Cooper who also lived in Winthrop. Though he appeared to shoot randomly whoever was in his path, in fact he deliberately bypassed whites instead targeting African Americans retired Massachusetts State Police trooper Green and Air force veteran Cooper. Police shot and killed Allen ending his brief killing spree.
Looking for evidence to explain his motivation, police found Allen’s handwritten racist and anti-Semitic screeds. Hours after the tragic event, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins declared that Nathan Allen had “hate in his heart.”
I’ve been turning this story over in my mind wondering how long the apparent white supremacist had carried hate in his heart. And more, why he decided to act on it now.
A question all the more puzzling since he didn’t seem to fit the stereotype of a loner with a lack of social skills and not much education. Somebody like Dylann Roof who repeated the ninth grade and was unemployed when he gunned down 9 people in Charleston’s Emanuel Church. By contrast, Nathan Allen had earned a PhD, was newly married and had no police record. Last year Boston Globe columnist Thomas Farragher profiled him and his then girlfriend in a sweet story about his surprising her with a very special proposal. It happened shortly after she got home after attending a rally for Bernie Sanders, the uber-liberal Jewish Senator.
I would have to assume — given the views he wrote about shortly before the day of his killings, the Nathan Allen she knew last year when they married was somebody other than this rage fueled killer.
It would make sense that if he did do a 180 from the time of the wedding, he would have been influenced by or become a member of one of the many white supremacist groups on the rise. The ones FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March now make up the majority of the department’s investigations.
Wray was there to testify about the groups who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, groups whose members he described as “domestic terrorists.” He added, “Racially motivated violent extremism, especially of the sort that advocates for the superiority of the white race is a persistent evolving threat.” Members of those groups are openly espousing their hate as a mission statement and recruiting tool.
But the police say they are confident that Allen self-radicalized and had not joined any organization. I imagine him studying from an online curriculum of hate rhetoric. And I’m reminded of the lyrics of a serious song from the otherwise frothy musical, South Pacific,” You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”
What scares me is even if he acted alone in this shocking incident, his actions suggest many more like him are just one opportunistic circumstance away from turning their private hate into a public attack.
Belmont resident Henry Tapia’s friends and family are still grieving his loss. In January, Tapia who is Black, exchanged sharp words with Dean Kapsalis who is white, in a road rage incident that ended when Kapsalis allegedly called him the N word and then ran over Tapia killing him. Kapsalis who left the scene of the crime and later turned himself in, has been charged with murder and assault and battery with an additional charge for leaving the scene. The family has filed a civil lawsuit and a small group of protestors has kept his name and case in the public eye.
I see these seemingly isolated incidents linked together in what the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the chain of evil of hate begetting hate.” Two good people are gone because of one man’s link in that chain. Two good people who woke up on that Saturday not knowing they wouldn’t live another day. When will we understand that the virulence of racism is an infection that spreads like COVID-19 and is just as deadly? And that no one is immune.