On an early June morning last year, a white man named Joseph Paul Leonard walked out of a McDonald’s, and then he “went crazy and lost his temper” at two black men who were passing out food to nearby homeless people, according to testimony from a police detective. The detective testified that Leonard took a chain from the back of his truck and began swinging it at the black men, and this testimony was corroborated by a videotape taken by the McDonald’s showing the two black men backing away while Leonard swung the chain over his head “lasso style.”
The video shows Leonard getting in his truck, driving off, and then returning with the chain in his hands once again. At one point, he stomps on a bicycle ridden by one of the two black men, a man named Toussaint Harrison. The two black men reportedly tried to defend themselves by throwing a knife and another, unidentified object at Leonard, injuring his cheek and his midsection. They eventually fled the scene.
That’s when Leonard chased after them in his truck, according to the Sacramento Bee. Evidence at Leonard’s trial “showed that he burned 23 feet of rubber before he smashed his 1997 green Chevy S-10 into Harrison.” As Harrison was bleeding on the pavement, Leonard reportedly exited his truck and kicked Harrison multiple times in his head while wearing steel-toed boots. Harrison died two days later.
The black man who survived the encounter with Leonard, a man named Justin Oliphant, later told detectives that Leonard used a racial slur while he was chasing after them. And, in case there is any doubt why Leonard confronted the two men, Leonard was videotaped while he was sitting in the back of a sheriff’s patrol car shortly after he was arrested, blaming his actions on the fact that the United States has a black president.
“Just because we got Obama for a president,” Leonard says on the video, “these people think they are real special.”