Massachusetts authorities said a man who gunned down two people outside Boston on Saturday after crashing a stolen truck was a white supremacist who targeted them because they were Black.
Now, prosecutors are investigating the case as a hate crime.
Ramona Cooper, 60, a staff sergeant in the Air Force, and 68-year-old David Green, a retired state trooper, were shot multiple times Saturday afternoon by Nathan Allen, after he crashed a box truck stolen from a piping and drain company into a home in the city of Winthrop, according to Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
After crashing the truck, Allen, 28, got out of the vehicle and targeted Cooper, who was shot in the back multiple times, and Green, who was shot in the head, neck, and torso repeatedly, Rollins said in a statement on Sunday. Green was shot outside his home and “may have been trying to engage the suspect to end the threat,” according to Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason.
Allen walked by several people who were not Black and left them unharmed, Rollins told reporters during a press conference at the scene on Sunday, the Boston Globe reported. “They are alive, and these two visible people of color are not,” she emphasized.
Allen died at the scene Saturday after exchanging gunfire with a Winthrop police sergeant who had responded to the scene, which witnesses told NBC 10 Boston was chaotic and unfolded in front of terrified residents, including children.
Rollins pledged to find out what triggered Allen’s rampage and said investigators believe he acted alone.
She said investigators found “troubling white supremacist rhetoric” in messages written by the killer. “This individual wrote about the superiority of the white race. About whites being ‘apex predators.’ He drew swastikas,” she said in her statement.
But Rollins suggested that there were few, if any, outward signs of Allen being a violent white supremacist prior to the killings. She said Allen was legally licensed to carry a firearm and was not on authorities’ radar. “He had nothing in his background check,” she added.
“This shooter was married and employed. He had a PhD and no criminal history. To all external sources he likely appeared unassuming,” she said. “And then, yesterday afternoon he stole a box truck, crashed it into another vehicle and a property, walked away from the wreckage interacting with multiple individuals and choosing only to shoot and kill the two Black people he encountered.”
He received a doctorate degree in physical therapy from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in January. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the school stressed its commitment to challenging systemic racism and standing against hate.
Allen’s social media accounts showed no obvious signs of his apparent white supremacist views. A Facebook page that appears to belong to him included several public posts showing him celebrating his wife’s birthday, drinking beer in an American flag-styled shirt with a friend, and traveling in Vienna. There are several images of rabbits and a post that says he donated to a fundraiser asking for help with one.
Before his named appeared in the Boston Globe as a suspected killer, Allen appeared in an August 2020 article in which he talked about how important it was that his wife’s 92-year-old grandfather attended their wedding. Because of the pandemic, they held the ceremony outside his nursing home.
A website announcing Allen and his wife’s wedding last September said the couple met in 2011, had their first date at McDonald's in New Bedford in March 2013, and moved into their “first home: A condo in Winthrop” — the city where the shooting occurred — in October 2019.
The apparent targeted killing comes amid a rising tide of white supremacist violence in the US. An analysis by the Washington Post found that since 2015, there have been 267 plots or attacks by far-right extremists and 91 fatalities. The Department of Homeland Security has issued warnings this year about potential violence by domestic political extremists and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.
President Joe Biden has spoken out against white supremacist violence and called domestic terrorism the most urgent threat the United States faces today and a “stain on the soul of America.” Earlier this month, his administration released an ambitious and first-of-its-kind plan for countering domestic terrorism. It called for increasing information sharing with law enforcement agencies and the technology sector; growing the ranks of government analysts, investigators, and prosecutors needed to combat domestic terrorism; and improving employee screening to enhance methods for identifying extremists who might pose insider threats, among other measures.
“There is a growing national, and global, problem with extremism and white supremacy,” Rollins said in a statement. “The FBI believes the most serious domestic violent extremist threat comes from ‘racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocated for the superiority of the white race.’”
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Friends and colleagues of Green and Cooper spoke highly of both of them and said that Green’s actions before his death were heroic.
Nick Tsiotos, a longtime friend of Green’s, told WCVB-TV the retired trooper was sitting with friends when he heard the truck crash and jumped up to help. “He went out and tried to do what he was doing for 36 years with the state police: trying to help save lives and help save people.”
Mason of the state police said Green had become a Metropolitan District Commission police officer in 1980, and a Massachusetts state trooper 12 years later. He retired in 2016.
“Trooper David Green more than upheld the ideals of integrity, professionalism, and service to others that are the hallmarks of a great Trooper,” he said. “We are heartbroken by his loss and offer our condolences to his family and friends.”
One of Cooper's neighbors told WCVB NewsCenter 5 that Cooper was a Veterans Affairs employee. Her son, Gary Cooper Jr., told the news channel that she “was a good person.”
“She would help anyone who needed it,” he said. “She was caring and selfless.”