Billings, Mont. (AP) - A woman told police repeatedly Passed through a group of religious protestersin which one person was injured MontanaIn the largest city, she reportedly told a clerk at a nearby convenience store that she was upset that members of the group were expressing racist views against white people, the clerk said.
The protesters targeted in the weekend attack in Billings are members of Israel United in Christ, according to police. The group has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "an extreme and anti-Semitic sect of Black Hebrew Israelites" based in the Bronx. New York,
Members of the group were standing on the sidewalk, holding signs and talking through an amplifier, when the woman walked by or among them several times, said Billings police spokesman Lt. Matt Lenick. A 45-year-old man suffered minor injuries, police said.
Geneviève Rancurette, 55, was arrested hours later and booked into jail on suspicion of felony criminal mischief with a weapon - vehicle - and eight counts of driving under the influence. He is also being held on a motion to revoke a suspended or deferred sentence.
Moments before the alleged attack, the suspect had complained about the protesters to Sarah Gebhardt, who works at a convenience store across the street from where a group of about 10 people had gathered, Gebhardt told The Associated Press. The protesters were wearing purple T-shirts and speaking through loudspeakers.
“He thought they were being racist against white people. He didn't appreciate their interpretation of the Bible,'' Gebhardt said. ''He commented, 'When I'm in the Jeep, I should just crush them.' I didn't think she was serious and then she walked out and it was obvious she was very serious."
Gebhardt said the woman was very emotional in the store and was crying and appeared to be intoxicated. When the woman drove over the group, she ran over their luggage and caused people to scatter, Gebhardt said. Gebhardt said the woman circled the block repeatedly and passed through the group each time, adding that he did not see anyone get hit.
The FBI is reviewing the case and the Yellowstone County Attorney's Office is considering whether state bias-related criminal charges should be filed.
Representatives of Israel United in Christ said in a statement that its members were acting peacefully and had not exchanged any words with the suspect before the alleged attack. The statement condemned the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups for pushing a "false narrative" about the group that "could lead to acts of violence."
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the leadership of Israel United in Christ has reportedly referred to Jews as Satan.
Rancurette remained in jail Monday with an $885 bond. His case had not yet come before the local court and it was unknown whether there was a lawyer representing him. Attorneys for the state public defender's office did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
A woman who answered the phone number listed for Rencurate declined to speak to a reporter.
In September 2021, Rancurette pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a weapon after threatening someone with a bread knife, according to court records. He was given a seven-year deferred sentence and placed on probation.
Hanson reported from Helena, Mont. Associated Press researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this story.
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