Charge Accused White Supremacist Killer of Iranian American Student with a Hate Crime

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On September 7, 2015, Shayan Mazroei, a 22-year-old student was stabbed by Craig Tanber – an admitted white-supremacist, outside of a local bar he frequented in Laguna Niguel, CA. Shayan later died of his wounds at the hospital.

Tanber and his longtime girlfriend and Orange County employee, Elizabeth Thornburg, began hurling racial slurs and epithets at Shayan as he and a friend dined at the pub. The pair called Shayan “terrorist,” “Arab,” and “f--cking Iranian” before Tanber fatally stabbed him in the chest, leaving him bleeding on the floor as he took off in a car driven by Thornburg. Surveillance video from the bar also shows Thornburg spitting on Shayan at least three times.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has not only failed to charge Shayan’s murder as a hate crime, but has also not charged Elizabeth Thornburg with any crime at all, despite her involvement in the events that led up to the fatal stabbing, as well as her driving Mr. Tanber away from the crime scene.

As the anti-Iranian sentiment and hate crimes against Iranians-Americans and other people from majority Muslim countries have seen a staggering rise by hate groups across the country, it is more important now than ever to prosecute hate crimes as hate crimes under the law. When a local or state authority fails to properly charge and prosecute, it is the duty and responsibility of the federal government to intervene, investigate, and charge hate crimes as appropriate. Failure to do so would effectively concede that the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crime Prevention Act was nothing more than a symbolic law that will seldom be utilized – that hate crimes against certain communities are tolerable or acceptable in the United States.

A successful hate crime prosecution requires two main elements: a known suspect and a motivation by animus or bias towards a protected class of people. Here, we have a known white supremacist suspect, and multiple witness accounts which establish this fatal stabbing was motivated by Shayan Mazroei’s Iranian heritage.

It is our position that Mr. Tanber and Ms. Thornburg violated 8 U.S.C. § 249 by committing an offense motivated by the actual or perceived national origin of Shayan Mazroei after noticing a prominently placed Iranian-inspired tattoo on Shayan’s forearm with Farsi script spelling “esgh” which translated to “love.” Mr. Tanber, with the encouragement and active participation of Ms. Thornburg, hurled racial slurs at Shayan and willfully stabbed Shayan to death using a knife which traveled in interstate or foreign commerce. Mr. Tanber was then driven away by Ms. Thornburg in a motor vehicle on a public roadway, which qualify as an instrumentality and channel of interstate commerce under the statute. Given the failure of the State authorities to charge a hate crime in this case, it is the position of the undersigned that a prosecution of Mr. Tanber and Ms. Thornburg by the United States under 8 U.S.C. § 249 is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

Perpetrators of federal hate crimes must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and Shayan Mazroei is no exception to this rule. Craig Tanber and Elizabeth Thornburg took something from the Mazroei family that night; they took their only son, a bright and caring young man who touched the lives of everyone he met and had the brightest future this country has to offer ahead of him. But even more, Tanber and Thornburg took something from the community that night as well: a sense of peace and safety.

Hate crimes must never be normalized in a civil society. We ask that the Department of Justice open a federal hate crime investigation into the fatal stabbing of Shayan Mazroei, and bring federal charges as appropriate.



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