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Florida man sentenced to life imprisonment for brutal murder of Guatemalan teen

David Harris said he and two of his companions decided to go "Guat hunting".

David Harris, far-right, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. Austin Taggart and Jesse Harris (from left) will be sentenced separately. (Credit: Screengrab)
David Harris, far-right, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. Austin Taggart and Jesse Harris (from left) will be sentenced separately. (Credit: Screengrab)

A Florida man has been given a life sentence for murdering an 18-year-old Guatemalan man in 2015 with an axe, in what the judge described as an “absolutely horrific” case.

David Harris, 22, was found guilty on Monday of murdering Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos on April 18, 2015. Harris, along with his younger brother Jesse, 18, and friend Austin Taggart, 19, met Lopez-Ramos at his home in Jupiter, Florida. After a fight broke out between the group and Lopez-Ramos and his brother, Harris swung an axe at Onesimo’s head, killing him.

Prosecutors in the case alleged that the trio had set out to target Latinos. “They were going ‘Guat hunting’ — Guatemalan hunting”, assistant state attorney Jill Richstone told jury. “[This] means to rob [or] steal from unsuspecting, weak Guatemalans.”

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Both prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Lopez-Ramos was the victim of a hate crime, according to the Sun-Sentinel. During the initial police investigation officers reinforced this by saying that Lopez-Ramos was targeted because of the color of his skin.

“The suspects in this case specifically targeted members of our Hispanic community,” Jupiter police Chief Frank Kitzerow said, shortly after the arrest in April 2015. “This began as a premeditated robbery.”

Harris’ attorney Franklin Price maintained that Austin Taggart — who is being tried independently — was to blame for the fatal blow, which prosecutors said was so bad that “part of [Lopez-Ramos’] brain was on the ground.”

“The fight went crazy and you’re going to have to try to understand what happened during the fight to solve this case,” Price said. “David Harris did not have any bad intentions.”

Since the presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump there has been a well-documented spike in hate crimes in the U.S. In 2015 and 2016 hate crimes rose for the first time in over a decade, according to the data released by the FBI. In 2016, that included a 15 percent rise in anti-Latino crimes.

The White House, however, has at best ignored this spike and at worst is contributing to it outright. Last week, Trump called undocumented immigrants “animals” before doubling down on it in a White House press release on Monday entitled “WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIOLENT ANIMALS OF MS-13”.

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Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities have used Trump’s rhetoric to enact a series of increasingly anti-immigrant policies, including targeting unaccompanied immigrant children from Central America, who are fleeing the very gang the Trump administration is professing to combat.