In 2001, a man named William Stagner shot and killed four Mexicans in Rifle, Colorado. This incident demonstrates how violence is still inflicted on immigrant groups in the twenty-first century in the American west.
Rifle, Colorado is a small town nestled on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. Since the end of the 19th century, the town’s population has steadily increased due to its successful cattle ranching industry. By the late-20th century, the surrounding ski and tourism industries had attracted a sizable Latino immigrant labor population to Rifle as well.
On July 3, 2001, at around 11:45 p.m, a white man named Steven Michael Stagner went to the City Market grocery store in Rifle and opened fire at those he suspected to be immigrants. He first shot Juan Hernandez-Carillo, a botanist who was speaking on a pay phone outside of the store. From there, he crossed the parking lot and shot 19-year-old Anjelica Toscono, who had entered the United States only 22 days earlier while she was speaking on a payphone with her mother in Mexico. He then headed to the nearby RV park, where many Latinos lived, to continue his rampage. Two brothers, Fernando and Carlos Medrano, were sitting outside their trailer under a tree drinking beer when Stagner approached and shot them both. He shot three more Mexican men before he was apprehended by law enforcement. In the end, Hernandez-Carillo, Toscono, and the Medrano brothers were all killed.In the aftermath, the local 4th of July celebration was canceled, and many people attended memorials in honor of the four victims and public demonstrations protesting Stagner’s actions. Stagner was charged with first-degree murder; however, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Stagner was sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute for an undetermined amount of time. This outraged many in the community, especially those in the immigrant community. They tried to challenge the court’s decision on the grounds that Stagner’s known hatred for immigrants proved that the shootings were not random, but rather race-based, but were unsuccessful. The community continues to grieve these deaths, and Stagner has remained in a mental hospital.