NASHVILLE, TN — A federal grand jury charged a 32-year-old Nashville man with hate crimes connected to an alleged October 2017 attack on a pair of teenage Muslim sisters at an East Nashville bus stop.
Christopher Beckham, 32, was arrested April 6, charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and lying to the FBI.
On October 24, 2017, Beckham allegedly approached the two sisters, both McGavock High School students and both wearing the hijab, as they were walking along Lebanon Pike and told them "to go back to their country" and "that they were not welcome in America."
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One of the sisters said she told Beckham to "f— off" and he started walking toward them and said he was going to beat them up. Coincidentally, the girls’ father was driving by in his taxi as this occurred.
The father stopped his cab and confronted Beckham, he told police. He said Beckham then pulled a knife and began yelling racial slurs and swinging the pocket knife. After a scuffle during which both Beckham and the father were injured, the girls and their dad got into the cab, called police and followed Beckham until officers arrived.
The arresting officer wrote in his report that while in the patrol car, Beckham continued to yell racial slurs and threatened to kill the girls and their father when he was released from jail.
According to the federal indictment, in March 2018, Beckham falsely claimed to FBI special agents that he saw the girls trying to break into cars; that he never swung a knife at their father; and that, after he pulled out his knife, the girls yelled "Allahu Akbar!," and then either one or both of them hit him on the back of the head.
If convicted on the hate crime charge, Beckham faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. The charge of making false statements to the FBI provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
Beckham’s trial on state assault charges is scheduled for April 26.
Photo via Metro Nashville Police Department