Attack on Afghan brothers was hate crime, police say

Police are investigating what they call a hate crime against two Afghan brothers that involved a crowd of 40 people Tuesday afternoon in a neighborhood near Dumfries.

The brothers, ages 16 and 17, were on their way home from school along Wexford Loop at about 3:30 p.m. when they were approached by their neighbor, Jarvis Berkley Wilhoit, 19, of 17399 Cusack Lane, who was followed by a crowd of his friends, police said.

Wilhoit began to punch the 17-year-old in the face and then began to strike his younger brother, said Detective Dennis Mangan, Prince William police spokesman. Wilhoit’s mother, April Scruggs, 42, arrived on the scene with a wrench in her hand and hit the older brother with it, Mangan said.

While Wilhoit continued to attack the younger brother, Mangan said, Scruggs grabbed a crutch from one of the people in the crowd and hit the older brother in the leg with it.

As the two brothers tried to get away from the crowd, a friend who lived nearby let them in his house so they could call the police. Wilhoit became irate and punched a dent in a 1994 Toyota Camry, owned by the mother of the friend, Mangan said.

The crowd dispersed before police arrived. The boys did not go to the hospital, he said

Wilhoit was later arrested and charged with two counts of assault and battery, hate-crime related, and one count of destruction of property. Police also arrested Scruggs, also of 17399 Cusack Lane, and charged her with one count of assault and battery.

While assault and battery is normally classified as a misdemeanor crime, Wilhoit faces felony charges because of the apparently racist nature of the attack. The victims reported to police that Wilhoit has repeatedly harassed them since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, referring to them as “terrorists,” Mangan said.

Police are now investigating if anyone in the crowd played any part in the assault and police are not yet sure if anyone else will be charged, said Prince William police Chief Charlie T. Deane on Wednesday evening.

Tuesday’s attack is the first assault on area Afghan residents since Sept. 11 reported by police, Deane said.

Police have received other hate-related reports, all dealing with vandalism and verbal threats, he said. “Hate crimes are crimes that are motivated by hatred … we investigate them as vigorously as we can,” Deane said.

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