A coalition of community groups have united across racial and ethnic lines to call for Milwaukee officials to charge suspect Dan Popp with a hate crime for allegedly killing a Puerto Rican man and Hmong couple earlier this month.
“It is important that our community, our city, our state and, in fact, our nation admit that hate does exist and where we see it, we must identify it,” Darryl Morin of the League of United Latin American Citizens—one of the 22 groups in the coalition—said during a press conference Friday (March 18).
A criminal complaint lodged against Dan Popp, a White man, says that he made racist comments before fatally shooting Mai and Phia Vue and Jesus Manso-Perez in their apartment building on March 6. The Journal-Sentinel reports that Popp currently faces three charges of first-degree intentional homicide, as well as one charge of attempted intentional homicide for shooting at Manso-Perez’s 18-year-old son. Each of the three main charges carries a mandatory life sentence, if convicted.
The teenager told police that Popp said, “Oh, that’s why you don’t speak English,” after finding out they were from Puerto Rico. After that, according to the complaint, Popp shot at both of them and struck Manso-Perez before moving to the Vue’s apartment and shooting them in front of their family, including children.
One of the coalition members, Pardeep Kaleka, lost his father during the 2012 White supremacist-led massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Kaleka acknowledged the importance of a hate crime charge to helping his community heal, saying, “It was the clear articulation of what had happened and what was the motive behind it that helped us recover and helped the community understand what they needed to do, moving forward.”
The coalition also advocated for authorities to disclose how Popp, who has a history of mental illness, was able to access a firearm.