Violence blamed on skinheads persists in Denver 5 men are arrested after black woman is beaten at store


DENVER -- Five skinheads in handcuffs appeared in court here yesterday, accused of being the latest protagonists in a series of white supremacist attacks that have marred Denver's reputation.

Early on Thanksgiving Day, police said, the five white youths shouted racial epithets and then beat up a 26-year-old black woman, Shomie R. Francis, who was shopping at a 7-Eleven store.

"They just jumped me, simple as that," Francis, a customer service representative and a lifelong Colorado resident, said in an interview. "Being a black woman, I have run into words, of course. But never anything physical."

Yesterday, Francis went to see her doctor for stitches to her lip.

Bond was set at $10,000 for each of the skinheads, who are being held for investigation of ethnic intimidation and assault.

Thursday's attack came after three weeks of violence in Denver attributed to skinheads. It has left a policeman dead, a skinhead dead by suicide and, in one attack, an African immigrant dead and a witness paralyzed by a bullet.

The racist violence has prompted a series rallies for racial tolerance.

In a state where hate crimes had been rare, a small minority of residents appear to have interpreted the attacks as a green light for more.

On Monday in Grand Junction, western Colorado's largest city, three white men shouted racial insults at a black man, then attacked him with a baseball bat and a steel pipe.

The victim, Charles Ferribee, 32, escaped with a bloody nose. Three people were arrested and face charges of felony menacing and racial intimidation.

Carl Raschke, a Denver University religion professor who has studied skinheads in the area, said white supremacists are trying to use Denver as a "test bed" for an urban guerrilla war.

"Some skinheads believe that white people are now a minority in the nation, that white people are oppressed and that they have to fight for their own country," Raschke said.

Authorities here appear to have slipped up this year in their handling of Nathan J. Thill, a 19-year-old skinhead. Last week, Thill confessed to shooting to death the African immigrant on Nov. 11 because he "didn't belong where he was at."

On March 19, Thill had been arrested in Denver for robbing a man in an adult bookstore by holding a knife to his throat.

Charged with two felonies, aggravated robbery and menacing, Thill won dismissal of the felonies by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, third-degree assault.

On May 21, a judge sentenced him to 540 days in jail, suspending 360 days. But a clerk mistakenly typed "90 days" into a court computer, instead of "180 days."

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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