SHASTA LAKE, Calif. – Another Native family was allegedly attacked by an apparently self-proclaimed white supremacist who assaulted Sage Frank, 18, on the evening of August 23 as he and two cousins were skateboarding on the street in front of their home.
Frank, a new student at Shasta Community College, said he was stunned when Charles Petrisevac, 36, jumped out of bushes near Frank’s home yelling ‘white pride,’ then allegedly threatened to kill the boys as they engaged in verbal confrontation.
Petrisevac, who is bald with a brown goatee and mustache, was described as bare-chested, wearing only shorts, with tattoos on his chest and shoulders when he approached the boys carrying a beer can, according to Frank.
“He said ‘I’m going to kill you fucking niggers’ and kept calling us names,” Frank said. “Then he suddenly sucker-punched me, hitting me in the eye, and ran away through the bushes. I went after him.”
Frank’s mother, April Carmelo, was putting her seven-month-old foster baby to bed when her younger son ran into the house yelling “someone’s hitting brother.”
Carmelo handed the baby to her husband and jumped into her SUV to find her son. She saw her son chasing Petrisevac down the street and caught up to them at an intersection. She reportedly saw Petrisevac pointing a shotgun at Sage and drove her SUV between them to stop him from shooting her son. Petrisevac then turned on her.
“Then he pointed the gun at me, shouting ‘white pride’ and said, ‘I will kill you, too, you fucking nigger,” she said.
Carmelo stayed in her vehicle with her hand on the horn as traffic backed up, and Petrisevac continued yelling threats and pacing in front of her car.
“I was yelling for people to call the cops with his gun pointed at me when another white male appeared, wearing no shirt with tattoos on his chest. He started pounding his chest, raised his fist and yelled ‘Aryan Nation’. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us,” she said.
By the time the police finally arrived, Petrisevac had taken his gun back inside his house, said Carmelo, and told police that he did not have any weapons.
“He was casually leaning back on the hood of the police car with his arms crossed while they questioned him and they seemed friendly to him,” Carmelo said, “I told them he was lying, but they instructed me to go sit in my car.”
She said she was later asked to produce identification and questioned briefly at her home. She insisted that police report the attack as a hate crime.
Family seeks protection
The next morning, Carmelo was shocked to realize the police hadn’t arrested the man that threatened her family when Petrisevac showed up jogging in front of her house as she was leaving for work with her baby. He allegedly stopped to thrust out his chest and grunt loudly at her, she said.
Horrified that he was back to taunt them, Carmelo learned that no charges had been filed against Petrisevac, despite the fact that she had stated that he had verbally and physically assaulted her son, threatened her and her son with a gun, and has a prior record of harassment against a Hispanic woman.
She then sought a restraining order against Petrisevac for civil harassment, citing a hate crime, and four days later was granted a temporary restraining order until a court hearing on September 6 to determine further action.
Carmelo, an Indian Education Specialist for 13 years who oversees Indian Education Programs for Shasta County’s 26 schools, is Greenville Rancheria Maidu and wears the traditional female markings of Maidu women (seven vertical slashes on her chin). Her husband Cameron Frank, is enrolled Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
The family has lived in the same house for the past 16 years, but saw a change in the once-quiet neighborhood when several newcomers arrived about four years ago, Carmelo said.
“We became aware that some racists had moved into the neighborhood but we left them alone. They made their presence known with carloads of teenagers driving by yelling ‘white pride,’ and even little kids on bikes yelling profanities and calling us niggers. It’s ugly, but we tried to ignore it,” she said.
Sage Frank and his cousins said on many occasions they saw carloads of teens drive by and point hand signals mocking pistols at them. Only weeks ago, another incident of harassment occurred when Carmelo’s younger son was verbally assaulted at a local park. Carmelo reported the incident to police with no results.
In recent days, the local convenience store was tagged with a swastika symbol near Carmelo and Frank’s home where they routinely shop.
Institutional racism at play
Carmelo immediately turned to local anti-racism allies and the Shasta City Council for support in dealing with the attacks.
She said there is little acknowledgment of the city's history of violence and forced relocation against California's Indigenous Peoples in local school curricula, and that facilitates misunderstanding, hate and racism.
Speaking at a packed City Council meeting on September 5, she said, “The physical assault on my son, the language used by these two men and the threats of death against us made with the means to carry them out makes this a hate crime. Racism is alive in the City of Shasta Lake and it has potentially fatal consequences.
“It’s important for the city council to take this hate crime seriously and to ensure future hate crimes are better documented. There are more than 1,000 city residents that identify as Native American or Alaska Native, making us the most prominent minority group in the city,” she said.
“We need to make sure that its anti-racist policies are well known and improved upon because of the unique historical relationship between indigenous Californians and state institutions.”
Carmelo pointed out that democratically elected bodies like city councils were historically used to organize, fund and perpetrate violence against California Indians. Genocide, land theft and ethnic cleansing are part of the history of Shasta County and Shasta Lake City, she said, calling on officials to take a more vocal and more active stance against racism.
Forming human rights commission
“This hate crime is not only an attack on my son and I as individuals, it is an attack on the integrity of the sovereign nation of Greenville Rancheria of Maidu Indians. I urge the city to join my son and I as we move forward to establish a human rights commission governed by Greenville Rancheria.”
Carmelo said she took the idea from the formation of the Navajo Nation’s Human Rights Commission and sees its role as vital to addressing concerns of Rancheria citizens that live in urban areas as they confront racism, discrimination and other human rights violations.
“We need to invite other tribes and cities to enter into memoranda of agreements with Greenville Rancheria as we endeavor to prevent hate crimes, eliminate racism and improve the quality of life for all living in the City of Shasta Lake.”
Carmelo welcomes input from other victims of violence and those who want to stand up to racism. She is awaiting a full police report and asking the District Attorney to prosecute the attack as a hate crime under California and federal statutes.
This is the fourth attack on Native American families in the last 15 months in the Sierra Nevada region.
In May 2011, Johnny, Lisa and Ali Bonta were allegedly attacked and beaten by three young men in Fernley, Nevada who have not yet been indicted.
On June 14, Patty Dawson, a San Carlos Apache and Navajo nurse, was chased through city streets and beaten unconscious by Jennifer Fraser who is set to stand trial on September 17 in Fresno County Court on charges of aggravated assault.
Court records show Fraser has past ties to white supremacists, and hundreds of supporters have written to the judge and protested at the courthouse demanding that the case be prosecuted as a hate crime. The case was delayed seven times and the District Attorney was pushing for a quiet settlement, but the Dawson family has insisted on a trial, now slated for September 17-20 in Fresno.
Last fall, a young man was attacked and beaten in Chico, California apparently by a group of white supremacists; he was hospitalized in a coma, according to family.
Carmelo said it’s time for people to stand up to the increasing violence against Native peoples.
“Racism is not a dead issue in this city. It’s alive and well, and it is perpetuated through the generations by ignorance and stagnant governmental bodies,” she said.
“Lest history repeat itself we must take action, the City of Shasta Lake must take a more vocal and more active stance against racism. “
At press time, Carmelo was still trying to obtain a copy of the police report.
For more on hate crimes read:Understanding Racist Hate Crimes in America