On the evening of March 15, Justin Peoples pulled into a Chevron gas station in Tracy, California, a town about sixty miles east of San Francisco.
The 30-year-old father-of-two was a Navy veteran who lived in nearby Stockton; he was described by his father, Maurice Peoples, as a “remarkable young man.” But inside the gas station, just after 9 p.m., Peoples was shot and stabbed. As reported by the Tracy Press, he was rushed to a hospital where he died hours later.
In the early stages of the investigation, Tracy police determined that Peoples did nothing to provoke the attack that left him dead, and described it as a “senseless act of violence.” The morning after the killing, police arrested Christina Garner, 42, of Manteca, and Jeremy Jones, 49, of Stockton. Then last Friday, investigators alleged a motive: alongside a murder charge, the white couple was charged with a hate crime for killing the young Black father.
Garner’s and Jones’ social media accounts show they have an affinity for tattoos. Just days before their arrest, Jones debuted a new ink collar that reached from his collarbone up his throat. “I wanted to show my girlfriend that I loved her,” he says as he turns his head, revealing the massive letters that spell “CHRISTINA” across his neck.
But it’s precisely because of the couple’s ink that investigators say they were able to gather enough evidence that the alleged murder was a hate crime. Alongside his display of love for his girlfriend, Jones is also covered in white supremacist images, prosecutors said.
In a statement released two days after the couple’s arrest, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar released mugshots as well as photos of Jones’ other tattoos. “WHITE” and “PRIDE” span the length of his arms and the outline of a skeleton can be seen hovering over a swastika. Salazar also said that after investigating Jones, they discovered he had shown support in the past for white supremacist entities like Skinheads, the Aryan Brotherhood, and Nazis.
Jones’ Facebook accounts also feature homages to Norse mythology, poetry, and imagery that are often appropriated and displayed by white supremacist groups.
Salazar’s press release alleged Peoples “was intentionally killed because of his race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.”
In court documents filed the same day, the DA alleged that Garner fired the handgun that killed Peoples at the Chevron. The complaint also alleges that Jones likewise had a gun and used a knife to stab him.
“There is no place for hate in our community. No one should be victimized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion,” Salazar said in the press release. “These types of crimes are reprehensible and my administration will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law to hold those who perpetuate hate accountable.”
A third person, Christopher Angelo Dimenco, was also arrested for abetting Jones’ and Garner’s escape.
Peoples’ family, including his father Maurice, attended a press conference covering the senseless slaying, holding up photos of his beloved son. As reported by CBS Sacramento, the family mourned the death of a young veteran who served his country only to be murdered so close to home. He was apparently working two jobs with the hope of soon buying a house.
“It’s going to always hurt. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Maurice said. “It’s going to be a long hard trial and tribulation in my heart.”
One relative took to the podium to express her pain at the racist hatred that allegedly caused Peoples’ death: “I don’t care what color you are—stand for this baby who didn’t deserve to die.”