On Saturday, a 17-year-old was charged with two counts of murder for allegedly shooting his girlfriend's parents dead in their home, The Washington Post reports. The parents had reportedly become increasingly worried that their daughter's boyfriend was a neo-Nazi, and on Wednesday, urged her to break up with him. According to the Post, they were killed in their home on Friday morning where the rest of their family had gathered for Christmas.
Police haven't yet named a motive for the unidentified 17-year-old, who reportedly shot himself in the head and is in critical condition. But hate crimes in the U.S. have been on the rise for years now, and if the late parents' suspicions about their daughter's boyfriend were correct, Friday's killings would be only the most recent of several high-profile murders that white supremacists have carried out in 2017.
Friends and family members told the Post that the victims in the killings, Scott Fricker and Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, had become convinced that the teenager was a neo-Nazi and was trying to indoctrinate their daughter with white supremacist beliefs. In an email written before her death, Kuhn-Fricker reportedly said that her daughter had praised her boyfriend's knowledge of history and then asked, "Did you know that Jews are partly to blame for WWII?"
On Sunday evening, Kuhn-Fricker relayed her concerns to the president of the school that her daughter and the boyfriend attended, attaching several messages from a Twitter account that she believed to be the boyfriend's. Those messages reportedly contained praise for Hitler and Nazi book burnings, support for "white revolution" and derogatory comments about Jews and gay people (the Post could not independently identify that the account belonged to the boyfriend).
The Post reported that on Wednesday, the parents staged an intervention with their daughter in an attempt to get her to stop seeing the boyfriend in question. She ultimately agreed to do so, Kuhn-Fricker's mother Janet told the Post.
The next evening, a Fairfax County police detective later told Janet, the girl's parents went into her room to check on their daughter only to find her boyfriend there. Her father reportedly yelled at him to get out of the house and never come back; according to the detective, the boyfriend then pulled out a gun and shot both her parents and himself.
"I'm in shock," Janet Kuhn told the Post. "I haven't been able to cry yet."
Hate crimes in the U.S. have been on the rise since 2014, according to annual reports released by the FBI's civil rights division. Anti-black racism accounts for more hate crimes than any other kind of prejudice, according to the FBI, as around one-third of all hate crimes victims in the U.S. in 2016 were black. Religiously-motived hate crimes are less common, but they target Jews far more than any other religious group, according to FBI data, and have for over 20 years.
There have been many high-profile killings in 2017 that were allegedly committed by white supremacists, including a murder in Charlottesville, a stabbing on a train in Portland, a stabbing on the streets of New York, a school shooting in New Mexico, and a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.
Some have drawn a link between Donald Trump's political ascent and the preponderance of right-wing hate crimes of the last few years — according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were an average of about 87 "hate incidents" every day in the 10 days following Trump's election, more than five times the daily average of hate crimes in the entire year 2015.
During his campaign, Trump was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and initially refused to disavow KKK leader David Duke. After a white supremacist allegedly slammed his car into a crowd of leftist protesters in Charlottesville, killing a woman, Trump blamed violence on "both sides."