Man gets life in prison for Gresham murder
The man who ran over and killed a black teenager outside a convenience store in Gresham almost three years ago has been sentenced to life in prison.
Russell Courtier received his sentence Tuesday morning, April 16, from Multnomah County Judge Jerry Hodson for the 2016 killing of 19-year-old Larnell Bruce Jr.
The State of Oregon had previously shown evidence that tied Courtier to white supremacist groups, and he will serve at least 30 years before becoming eligible for parole. During the sentencing, Bruce's stepmother, Natasha Bruce, pleaded with the judge for the harshest possible sentence.
Last month, a jury convicted Courtier of murder and second-degree intimidation, which functions as Oregon's hate crime statute. He was also convicted of failing to perform the duties of a driver.
Outside of court, the Bruce family told KOIN 6 News, a Pamplin Media Group partner, they were satisfied with the sentence.
"I feel like in any situation like this, you would never get what you really want," Natasha said. "(There) is some type of relief for us and whoever else may have to deal with this man again."
The incident occurred in August 2016 outside a 7-Eleven in Rockwood, when Courtier and his girlfriend, Colleen Hunt, ran over Bruce with a red 1991 Jeep Wrangler after an altercation near the intersection of Southeast 188th Avenue and Southeast Burnside Street.
Upon arrival, officers found Bruce with critical injuries. He died at a local hospital, while the couple was arrested a short time later.
Surveillance footage showed Bruce and Courtier engaged in a physical fight. Eventually Bruce attempted to leave, which is when Courtier got into the Jeep and started driving toward the teen.
According to witnesses, there were two attempts made to run Bruce down. The first narrowly missed, but court documents said Courtier "circled around and chased after Mr. Bruce." Hunt told detectives she was a passenger inside the Jeep during the incident. She confirmed she encouraged Courtier by yelling "get him baby, get him."
Hunt pleaded guilty to manslaughter for her role in the teenager's death, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday afternoon.
Law enforcement said race was a motivating factor in the killing. Courtier is a member of the European Kindred prison gang, which prosecutors said is a white supremacist group. He has a shoulder tattoo of a shield with the letters EK, and another EK tattoo on his leg.
Prosecutor Dave Hannon said Courtier was part of the gang by choice.
"It stemmed from his racist desire to be part of a 'brotherhood,'" Hannon told KOIN. "This is an appropriate sentence, given that the jury found Russell Courtier's actions of murdering Larnell Bruce were motivated by his perception of Mr. Bruce's race or the color of his skin."
In 1999, Courtier and two other men riding MAX attacked Martin Clyde Beavers, a black man who didn't know his assailants. Courtier pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in that case, court records show.
During the proceedings Tuesday morning, Larnell Bruce Sr. spoke directly to Courtier and said Courtier's son "will now have to live without a father and everything that happened today, I'm sure is going to have some kind of reflection on his son."
During the sentencing, prosecutors said Courtier treated Bruce as "less than a human being."
Jurors returned a non-unanimous verdict on the intimidation charge. All other charges were unanimous.
The Bruce family made the decision to donate their son's organs. Natasha listed the five people who received the gift of life from her son and said they want to bring awareness to how organ donations save lives.
The family also started a nonprofit organization — Love and Live #LarnellBruce.
"We are going to advocate and help victims of hate crimes," Natasha said. "We'd like to give help to anybody who's gone through what we have gone through."
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