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'This Is White Power,' Neo-Nazi Allegedly Yelled Before Shooting Interracial Couple
Kelly Ann Jaeger and Jeffery Wellmaker were going for a stroll in a Phoenix park when neo-Nazi Travis Ricci began harassing them over interracial dating.
A neo-Nazi was convicted Wednesday of murder and other charges in the drive-by shooting of an interracial couple at an Arizona park.
Travis Ricci 37, tried to kill a black man and fatally shot the man's white girlfriend in 2009 after a dispute at the Phoenix location.
Investigators say Ricci yelled at Kelly Ann Jaeger and Jeffery Wellmaker as they went for a walk in the park, hollering racial slurs at Wellmaker and harassing him for dating a white woman.
“N_____, what are you doing with that white woman?” he shouted, according to the Phoenix New Times.“This is white power.”
Ricci left only to return in a car driven by a friend. Ricci was armed with a gun, which he used to shoot at the couple from his car.
Authorities say Ricci intended to shoot Wellmaker but instead struck Jaeger, a mother of two who was just two days shy of her 40th birthday, according to the Phoenix New Times.
Ricci, whose Nazi and white-power tattoos were covered by a dress shirt during the court appearance, reacted to the verdict by momentarily closing his eyes and lowering his head.
The guilty verdicts mean jurors will decide whether he should face life in prison or the death penalty in the killing of Kelly Ann Jaeger.
In seeking the death penalty, prosecutors have said the killing was meant to further the interests of the Vinlanders Social Club, a neo-Nazi group with a reputation for violence. Lawyers for Ricci have said his client wasn't a member of the Vinlanders.
Ricci's attorneys have noted Wellmaker was unable to identify Ricci in a photo lineup after the shooting.
While working with a police artist after the shooting, Wellmaker described a unique tattoo across the attacker's stomach, a judge wrote earlier in the case. Ricci has a large tattoo across his belly.
Defense lawyers have noted that nearly two years after the attack, Wellmaker was jailed in an unrelated case and played chess with Ricci behind bars without recognizing him. Wellmaker has also acknowledged smoking marijuana earlier on the morning of the shooting.
In an unrelated crime months after Jaeger's shooting death, police say Ricci stabbed two men who tried to stop him from attacking his girlfriend. He is serving a 22-year sentence for assault and weapons misconduct convictions.
Aaron Levi Schmidt, who authorities say was driving the car used in the attack on Jaeger and Wellmaker, has pleaded guilty to murder in Jaeger's death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[Photo: Arizona Department of Corrections]