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A White couple is accused of killing a man because he was Black, a California district attorney says

<i>San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office</i><br/>A look at some of Jeremy Jones' arm tattoos.
San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office
A look at some of Jeremy Jones' arm tattoos. "88" is a numerical symbol for White supremacy. "H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet -- 88 = HH

By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

Maurice Peoples was looking forward to lunch with his son, Justin Peoples, last week — but they didn’t get to share that meal because Justin was murdered the night before, in what a California district attorney is calling a hate crime.

Justin, who was Black, was shot once and stabbed multiple times at a Chevron gas station in Tracy, over 50 miles outside of San Francisco, California, around 9 p.m. on March 15, according to police.

Christina Lyn Garner, 42, and Jeremy Wayne Jones, 49, were arraigned on murder charges Friday with a special circumstance alleging the victim was intentionally killed because of his race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.

A third defendant, Christopher Dimenco, 58, was also arraigned on accessory charges.

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Garner and Jones. An attorney for Dimenco has declined to comment.

Garner and Jones are in a relationship, according to Garner’s Facebook profile.

It’s unclear what led up to the incident but San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said investigators believe Justin didn’t know Garner, Jones or Dimenco personally.

The interaction at the gas station was brief, unprovoked and “a senseless act of violence,” Tracy Police Chief Sekou Millington said during a Friday news conference.

Through surveillance video from the gas station, authorities were able to identify the suspects along with their car’s license plate, Mario Ysit from the Tracy Police Department told CNN.

Why the district attorney’s office is calling this a hate crime

“Based on what we’ve observed, based on the past history of the involved parties, we believe we can make this special circumstance of a hate crime and take it all the way to trial,” Verber Salazar said during the news conference.

Salazar’s office released photos of Jones’ tattoos: On parts of his arm, the words “White” and “Pride” can be seen. Next to the word “Pride,” the number “88” is visible, which is known as a White supremacist numerical code for “Heil Hitler,” according to the Anti Defamation League.

A close-up shot of another part of Jones’ body shows a swastika — another symbol commonly associated with White supremacist groups across the country.

Jones was released from parole on March 1, Salazar said during the news conference, but did not elaborate further on any prior convictions of Jones or the other two defendants.

“There is no place for hate in our community. No one should be victimized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion,” Salazar said. “These types of crimes are reprehensible and my administration will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law to hold those who perpetrate hate accountable.”

All three defendants are scheduled to appear in the San Joaquin County Superior Court on April 4 for further arraignment and have been remanded to custody.

An unknown goodbye

Justin leaves behind a 2-year-old and 11-year-old child, his father told CNN Tuesday, and one sister and four brothers along with extended family who are still processing their loss.

“He had a beautiful smile, a heart of a lion,” Maurice said. “I don’t understand that hate we have in this world nowadays … the hate some people can have in their heart … to want to stab somebody and shoot them because of the color of the skin.”

Justin graduated from Edison High School, San Joaquin Delta College and had served in the US Navy, Maurice said.

In school, Maurice said Justin played football and basketball and was always helping others with their algebra homework.

The morning he was killed, the father and son were exchanging text messages about Justin’s desire to buy a home. The two decided to get together for lunch the following day to talk about those plans further, Maurice said.

But the last memory Maurice has of his son is a text to him saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow son, I love you.”

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