The Associated Press has a story up which indicates that the county prosecutor is treating Alton Nolen’s crime as workplace violence. The Washington Post reports that the FBI is taking the same approach.
The opening paragraph of the AP report lays out the religious aspects of the crime then seems to do a back flip midway through:
An Oklahoma man apparently uttered Arabic words during an attack in
which he allegedly severed a co-worker’s head, and had “some sort of
infatuation with beheadings,” but the killing appeared to have more to
do with the man’s suspension from his job than his recent conversion to
Islam, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Cleveland County Prosecutor Greg Mashburn tells the AP, “There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings. It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way.” But then Mashburn adds, “Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day.” Other than the manner of death, the evidence of “infatuation” with Islamic beheadings and the utterances at the time of the murder–other than that, this looks like ordinary workplace violence.
Mashburn tells the AP that Nolen’s suspension (not firing as earlier reported) happened after a “back and forth with Ms. Johnson” after Nolen apparently said something about not liking white people. That resulted in a complaint to Human Resources by Traci Johnson which subsequently resulted in the suspension. Nolen then went home to get a knife and returned to Vaughn Foods. Traci Johnson was stabbed multiple
times and would likely have been beheaded as well if not for the
intervention of Mark Vaughn. It’s not clear how Colleen Hufford became part of the incident.
Nolen is being charged with first degree murder and the prosecutor will likely seek the death penalty. Meanwhile the FBI is still working a separate federal investigation. Two federal law enforcement sources tell the Washington Post that the FBI is also treating this case as workplace violence, not terrorism. The Post cites the FBI’s definition of terrorism which focuses on attempts to achieve political ends, i.e. influencing a government’s actions.
If racism rather than religion was a motive in the crime then it could presumably be considered a hate crime. Neither the AP nor the Post mention any intent to charge Nolen with a hate crime.