Prosecutor: Fireworks stand attack may be racially motivated

A white man has been charged with stabbing a Black man at a Kansas fireworks stand in an attack that the prosecutor said may have been racially motivated.

Austin Bryce Langley, 40, was charged Tuesday with one count each of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and criminal possession of a weapon by a convicted felon in the July 2 attack in Topeka. He has past convictions for aggravated battery.

Public defender Cindy Sewell didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said in a news release that he will seek a longer sentence than state sentencing guidelines call for if Langley is convicted. Kagay said that Kansas does not have a hate crime statute but does allow such a sentencing departure if there is sufficient evidence that a crime was racially motivated.

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Topeka police said the victim, Shawn Douglas, told officers that someone came up from behind and stabbed him while he was running a pop-up fireworks tent in a grocery store parking lot.

Kagay didn’t explain in the news release why he believed the attack was racially motivated and didn’t return a phone message. But Douglas described the attack as racist in an interview with WIBW one day after it happened.

“I managed to push him away and pull my gun, at that point he decided you know, to retreat,” Douglas said. “He started yelling racial slurs and everything else at people.”

Douglas said several people who saw the attack, including his son, chased the man. Langley, who was arrested a few blocks away, is jailed without bond on a probation violation and on $500,000 bond on the new charges.

”I think the hardest part was my kids seeing that and hearing that,” Douglas said. “It made it pretty tough.”

Douglas also posted a video on Facebook immediately after the attack, saying that he was doing OK and that it was unclear why he was stabbed. He didn’t immediately respond to a Facebook message.

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