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A Black and White Killing: The Case that Shook America

In 2016 outside a convenience store in Portland, Oregon, Russel Courtier, a member of white supremacist gang European Kindred, ran over and killed Larnell Bruce, a young black man, with his car. Shortly afterwards, CCTV footage of the incident went viral and shocked America, not just because of its brutality, but because of the question at its heart: was Larnell Bruce killed because he was black?

In search of an answer Bafta award winning Mobeen Azhar travels to Oregon to follow the trial for a new BBC Two two-part series – A Black and White Killing: The Case that Shook America. The more time he spends in Portland, the clearer it becomes that the case is part of a much bigger story about race, white supremacy and racial tensions in America today.

As he delves deep into the heart of America’s far right movement Mobeen comes face to face with neo-Nazis, armed campaigners who say they are simply ‘patriots’ as well as members and former members of white supremacist European Kindred prison gang. All roads eventually lead into the racially-segregated American prison system, which gave birth to European Kindred. In the tradition of large Californian gangs such as Aryan Brotherhood, European Kindred controls the white side of the prison yard. At every twist and turn of the trial Mobeen pursues his own investigation also talking to some witnesses to the killing and getting to know the families of the defendant and the victim.

In the meantime, the jury is asked to decide whether Larnell Bruce was killed because he was black, and the state of Oregon – and America as a whole – awaits a verdict that is now as much about decades of racial injustice as it is the death of one young man.

 

Colin Barr, Exec Producer, Expectation Factual Productions, says: “A Black and White Killing: The Case that Shook America started as an investigation into the killing of one young man but became a journey into something much darker and more sinister. Following Mobeen into the heart of America’s violent white supremacist gangs is a troubling, frightening experience but few people could handle it with such fearlessness and journalistic rigour.”

Mobeen Azhar, says: “The death of Larnell Bruce was tragic. The scars of racial injustice still run deep across America and his story gives us an opportunity to ask some uncomfortable and important questions about race relations in the US. I saw first-hand how polarised the discussion of race has become. And spending time behind bars with white supremacist gang members showed me how the prison system could be contributing to a more racially segregated society. I hope this series can shed more light into a dark world of white supremacists and other forces that are at play in driving people apart in America today.”

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