HOUSTON -- An accused hate criminal’s father says his son – a bipolar alcoholic who once spent time in a psychiatric lockdown – was off his medications when he allegedly attacked an illiterate 79 year-old African American man in a brutal hate crime.
Testimony during a federal court hearing painted a picture of a disturbed young man upset about car burglaries in his neighborhood, driving around Katy and talking on his telephone with his father on the day of the assault. Sometime during his travels, prosecutors say, Conrad Barrett shot cell phone video of himself spouting racist language, stalking potential victims for a hate crime and eventually punching a man so hard the victim suffered a broken jaw.
“The crime is vicious,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances Stacy, who ordered Barrett held without bail. “The victim lost three teeth. He’s an old man. He was singled out because of his race.”
Law enforcement authorities say the videos show Barrett complaining about “the direction of this country” and speculating he might appear on national television if he attacked an African-American victim. Twice he laughs, law enforcement officials say, first in a sinister chuckle when he spots his victim then again in jubilation as his elderly victim falls to the ground and he yells, “Knockout, baby!”
The crime might never have come to light if Barrett hadn’t gone to a Fulshear restaurant and allegedly shown off the video to a couple of strangers, one of whom happened to be an off duty arson investigator from another city. Law enforcement sources say the investigator’s wife was upset by the video and quietly told her husband he needed to do something.
“The couple was appalled,” said Alfred Tribble, an FBI agent assigned to the case.
The off-duty investigator stepped outside and flagged down a Fulshear police officer named Michael McCoy who confronted Barrett and confiscated his cell phone. Fulshear police obtained a search warrant and worked with federal drug agents to find the videos hidden in the suspect’s phone.
Officers who saw the video found it deeply disturbing. One of them reportedly had tears in her eyes as she watched the elderly victim crumple to the ground and heard the fleeing attacker cackle in glee.
The evidence was damning, but police faced an unusual problem. Nobody had reported the crime.
“Usually you have a report of a crime and you’re looking for a perpetrator,” said Tommy Kuykendall, Fulshear’s mayor. “In this case, we had the perpetrator, but didn’t know who the victim was.”
What happened next was a classic case of small town cops who wouldn’t quit. As they circulated images from the video to nearby police agencies, someone recognized the street in Katy where the crime happened. Fulshear police went door to door along the street and tracked down the victim.
“They were really, really upset,” said Joyce Harris, the victim’s sister-in-law, who lives on the street, recognized the photo and told officers where they could find the man they needed to build their case. “And I’m so happy. They did superior investigative work, in my opinion.”
As it turned out, federal law enforcement authorities say, the victim hadn’t called police because he basically thought it was pointless to report he’d been struck by a white man.
“He didn’t want to get into trouble and he was upset,” Tribble said.
An employee of a community center where the victim played dominoes had noticed the injuries and called the man’s daughter, but the victim claimed he had simply fallen down.
The daughter took her father to a hospital, where he underwent surgery and spent at least four days recovering. He still has trouble speaking more than a month after the attack.
His lawyer released a photograph of the victim, but asked reporters not to publicize the man’s name. Neighbors and relatives describe him as a kind, funny and helpful friend, and a familiar face in a neighborhood where it seems everybody knows his name.
“That just ain’t right,” said Mary Wilkins, who lives near the victim. “That just ain’t right. I mean, you don’t do nobody like that. “