Beating and shooting of Native Americans could be hate crime

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Possible hate crime in Valley neighborhood
azfamily.com

PHOENIX - A valley neighborhood near 48th Avenue and Thunderbird is put on high alert after four people are attacked.

Police are now investigating whether the victims were specifically targeted because of their race.

The victims are all Native American men.

The suspect is said to possibly have ties to a hate group.

Allie Bianchi and her kids were jolted out of bed by the sounds of police right outside their window early Sunday morning.

"We saw a sniper on our roof and then we were escorted out," says Bianchi.

It turns out one of her neighbors had allegedly been shot by 21-year-old Jason Carl Merk.

Two other victims were beaten.

Police are now investigating whether this was a possible hate crime.

The victims told police they were walking home from a nearby store when the suspect and his friends who were wearing "white pride t-shirts" began to harass them.

The men told them they were "taking back the neighborhood."

A scuffle ensued and at some point, police say Merk allegedly opened fire, striking the victim in the leg.

The Bias Crime Unit at Phoenix Police is investigating the case.

"The people who own the houses should better screen renters to keep the neighborhood safe!" says Bianchi.

It will be up to the County Attorney to determine if Jason Merk will be charged with a hate crime.

He was booked for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and police are still looking for the other people who were allegedly involved in the attack.