Pastor Believes Attack Was Hate Crime
Nephew Burned By 2 Boys, Nichols Says
POSTED: 4:40 pm CDT July 29, 2009
UPDATED: 6:36 pm CDT July 29, 2009
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What happened to a 15-year-old in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is gaining attention in Kansas City.
Pastor Gregory Nichols said his nephew was intentionally set on fire. He claims the incident was motivated by hate and not an accident.
Walter Currie Jr. was a vibrant teen, but then a classmate allegedly poured gas on him and set him on fire, his uncle said.
"I ran under a car and dropped my clothes to try and get the fire off of me," Currie said.
Walter's uncle, who is a local pastor, said his nephew was attacked by two white teens last month. Nichols said the incident began with an exchange of words between the boys, and three days later the youths went looking for Walter.
"For no known reason to Walter, they came back looking for him," Nichols said. "(They) walked around town with a Gatorade bottle filled with gasoline."
One of the boys was arrested and charged with first-degree juvenile assault for pouring the gasoline on Walter, and then throwing a lighter on him.
Nichols believes the charge should be more stringent. He said this is a hate crime because he said the boy told Walter "burn, blank, burn."
"We don't want a crime like this to be hidden," Nichols said. "My nephew needs to know that people care."
Lesi Smith, the chief juvenile officer in Poplar Bluff, said the police report did not indicate that any criterion for a hate crime was met. She said the highest charge for a crime of this nature is first-degree assault.
For more information about Walter, go to waltercurriejr.com.