Stabbing of Black man in Ontario results in federal hate crime charge

Nolan L. Strauss, 26, was the subject of a pending criminal case in Malheur County Circuit Court when he was charged with a federal hate crime in Eugene U.S. District Court last Thursday. (Malheur County Sheriff’s Office photo)

A Colorado man has been charged with a federal hate crime, accused of stabbing a Black man in Ontario last December. 

Nolan Levi Strauss, 26, was indicted in Eugene U.S. District Court on Thursday Sept. 17 on one count of a hate crime involving an attempt to kill, according to a federal indictment. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

The federal indictment stated that on the morning of Dec. 21, 2019, a 48-year-old Black man sat in the lobby of an Arby’s fast food restaurant in Ontario and waited for the manager to provide documentation for a pending job application.

Strauss approached Ronnell Tyrone Hughes from behind, “unprovoked and without warning,” and stabbed him in the neck, the federal indictment said. Hughes freed himself after a struggle for the knife, and store employees detained Strauss.

When a store employee asked why he attacked the man, Strauss said he did so because the man “was Black, and I don’t like Black people,” according to the federal indictment.

Strauss also told an Ontario police officer that he stabbed the man because he was Black and told Oregon State Police detectives that he intended to kill him, according to an affidavit filed in Malheur County Circuit Court in connection with earlier charges.

Hughes suffered two lacerations to his neck, according to a news release issued Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The federal indictment said he was flown to Boise for “emergency surgical intervention.” Hughes has since moved out of the area.

Strauss, who worked as a truck driver for May Trucking, was reported to have “a history of mental health issues in the state of Nebraska,” the affidavit said, and “it was reported that the suspect has a history of mental illness according to the family members.”

Strauss is scheduled to appear in federal court on Oct. 19.

The FBI investigated the case with the Ontario Police Department, Oregon State Police and the Malheur County District Attorney’s Office, the news release said.

Strauss was indicted in Malheur County Circuit Court on Dec. 26, 2019, on charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, first-degree bias crime and unlawful use of a weapon.

After being found unfit to proceed in February, he was sent to a state hospital where he was medicated “for a couple of months,” said Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe.  

Strauss is scheduled to enter his plea to the Malheur County charges on Sept. 30. Goldthorpe said his Malheur County case could only be affected by the federal case if he is taken into custody for that prosecution, which still wouldn’t require that the other case be dismissed.

“Our racial bias law in Oregon lacks teeth,” said Goldthorpe, and the only reason he is considering releasing Strauss to federal custody is because of the likelihood that he could receive a harsher sentence if convicted.

News tip? Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian by email at [email protected] or call 503-929-3053.


Colorado man accused of Ontario stabbing was convicted in 2017 assault

Community raised nearly $5,000 in support of stabbing victim

YOU CAN HELP KEEP LOCAL NEWS FLOWING: Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically. DONATE – to provide additional support.