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Prosecutors: Oak Park Hate Crime Rooted in Trayvon Martin Case

Charged with a hate crime, an 18-year-old Oak Park man tells police he was motivated by the Trayvon Martin case.

"Empty your pockets, white boy."

That's how prosecutors said Alton Hayes III began his robbery attack against a 19-year-old man last week, according to Oak Leaves. The incident has led to a hate crime charge against Hayes.

Police said it began around 1 a.m. April 17, when Hayes, 18, and an unidentified 15-year-old Chicago boy approached the victim, who's white, in the 600 block of North Kenilworth Avenue. Hayes grabbed the man with both arms and pushed his back against a tree, police said.

The 15-year-old picked up a tree branch, pointed it at the victim and the pair demanded his belongings. The duo reached inside the man's pockets, threw him on the ground and struck him in the back of the head, shoulders and back, police said. The pair ran away and were later found in the 800 block of North Grove shortly after the attack.

During questioning, investigators learned "the motivation for crime had something do with the victim's race," said Oak Park Police Department Cmdr. LaDon Reynolds.

According a police report, Hayes was charged with attempted robbery, aggravated battery and a hate crime. All are felonies.

Citing court records, Oak Leaves reports Hayes told investigators he was upset by the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and that he beat up the victim because he was white.

"We received information...that led us to believe the appropriate charges were filed," Reynolds said.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement condemning the attack and lauding authorities for following through on the hate crime charge.  

“We deplore this apparently bias-motivated attack. We applaud law enforcement for taking this incident seriously and enhancing the charge.  Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim of the crime," Lonnie Nasatir, the group's greater Chicago director, said in a statement. "When a victim is chosen because of his or her race, other members of that group feel unsafe and unwelcome. Law enforcement’s response to this crime helps to send a clear message that hate crimes will not be tolerated.”

The victim wasn't seriously injured.

Authorities are saying the incident "appears to be isolated," but that Hayes "isn't unfamiliar" to the Oak Park Police Department. According to online jail logs, Hayes remains in Cook County Jail, held on $80,000 bond. His next court date is May 11.

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