Homeless man charged with hate crime in Aspen attack
A transient man was charged with a hate crime for pulling a knife on a black man in downtown Aspen on Thursday night and repeatedly yelling racial slurs at him for no reason, according to court documents.
The arrest marked the second time in a week Jeffrey Sween, 50, has been taken into custody by police. He also was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of trespassing.
Thursday’s incident occurred about 7:40 p.m. when two other homeless men walked past Sween who was sitting at the fire pit across from Paradise Bakery, according to an affidavit filed in Aspen District Court.
According to numerous witnesses, one of the homeless men, who was black, had nunchucks in his back pocket and Sween allegedly called him “boy” and asked him what he planned to do with the weapon, the affidavit states. Sween then threw his bicycle at the two men but missed.
“Sween then told (the black man) he had a knife and challenged him to a fight,” witnesses told police, according to the affidavit. “Sween at this time was calling (the black man) a (racial slur) and (expressing) his dislike for (black people).”
The other homeless man, who was later described as white by witnesses, then exchanged words and punches with Sween, according to the affidavit and Aspen police Officer Kirk Wheatley.
“(The black man) was attempting to calm down the two males,” according to the affidavit.
Sween initially did calm down, though the white homeless man then took Sween’s shoes and threw them on top of the nearby information booth.
“Sween became irate, took his knife from his pocket and chased after (the other two men),” the affidavit states. “Sween was yelling racial slurs while doing this.”
Sween told police the black man threatened him with the nunchucks and admitted to pulling the knife in self-defense. He continually used racial slurs while talking to police and said he planned to hurt the black man, according to the affidavit.
“All witnesses said (the black man) did nothing to provoke Sween’s actions,” the affidavit states. “I observed a couple witnesses approach (the black man), give him a hug, tell him they were sorry for what had happened and thank him for being so professional.”
Sween was charged with felony menacing, harassment and committing a hate crime. Details about his previous arrest were not available Friday.
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