A man from the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to intimidate Black residents out of the neighborhood. The acts by William McDonald, 45, date back to March 2021 when according to a federal criminal complaint he vandalized a Black woman’s car and left racist notes telling her to leave West Allis. About a year later, according to the complaint, McDonald vandalized another Black woman’s front door with racist graffiti after she moved into his apartment complex.
In March of this year, according to court records, McDonald pleaded guilty to the counts against him. Records show that he surrendered Monday to authorities to begin his sentence.
“Every person in the United States has the right to live in their homes and neighborhoods free from the threat of violence based on race,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce federal laws that protect all residents against race-based threats like those made by this defendant. This sentence should send a strong message to others who would carry out racially motivated threats and acts of violence that they will be brought to justice.”
An FBI criminal complaint notes that the charges against McDonald revolved around victims’ housing rights. Besides damaging property, McDonald also left behind messages warning them to relocate, according to the complaint, which describes the notes without redactions. Some of those targeted moved out of their apartments for fear of their safety.
In March 2021, the complaint says, McDonald broke the windshield of a woman’s car and left a note telling her to watch who she talked to. “I know where you live,” the note added. “If I see you again, I’ll slash your [expletive] throat. Get the [expletive] back to the Northside where you belong you [expletive] [racial slur for Black people].” The North Side of Milwaukee, one of the country’s most segregated cities, is predominantly African American. Later, another note was left on the woman’s car saying it was her“last warning” to get out of the neighborhood.
The second victim was described in the complaint as a Puerto Rican mother of two. In October 2021, a note was left on her vehicle saying that the author was “watching all of you [expletive] [racial slur for Black people] moving into MY neighborhood. Keep speeding + driving like the dumb disrespectful [racial slur for Black people] you are + next time it will be your windshield [racial slur for Black people].” The note went on to warn the mother to go back to the North Side, to “stay there” and to “take all your monkey friends + family too. That’s where you belong.”
Another victim also experienced slashed tires and racist warnings to leave the neighborhood and go back to the North Side. A fourth woman was left a note with racist language saying “your [sic] NOT wanted here.”
By February 2022, the FBI had “established video surveillance near the area,” the complaint states. The next month, investigators reviewed footage showing a vehicle driving by one of the victim’s vehicles at 5:43 AM. After more video was collected of the suspect car, license plate information was sent to the West Allis Police Department, which helped identify the owner.
The complaint notes that “prior to receiving the hateful notes and having their vehicles vandalized,” several of the victims “were all happily living in West Allis, and had no desire to move.” According to the complaint, “a criminal history records check for McDonald showed that in 2003, McDonald was arrested for keying the vehicle belonging to his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. McDonald was also listed as a suspect in damaging the windshields on vehicles at a car dealership he worked at in 2018.”
West Allis police records also showed that McDonald had called the department 26 times to report drivers speeding or driving recklessly. Several of the notes left by McDonald referenced speeding, an issue which was widely focused on in local media in 2021 and 2022. Speeding and car theft incidents were increasingly blamed on “the KIA Boys,” an alleged group of youth specializing in those activities, and coverage depicted Black youth as the face of the KIA Boys.
McDonald was issued a citation in March 2022 by West Allis police after he was pulled over for not signaling and not wearing a seat belt. Officers shared body camera footage of the stop with the FBI. McDonald gave his phone number to officers during the stop, and the FBI served the carrier, Verizon, with a legal notice to turn over the geographic records associated with the phone. The records showed that McDonald’s phone was in the same geographic area where notes were left on victims’ cars or homes and around the time when the notes were left, according to the complaint.
On April 19, 2022, the FBI went to McDonald’s apartment with a search warrant and agents approached him as he walked towards his car. Inside the car agents found another racist note inside a sandwich bag, according to the complaint. Three jars of cannabis, a digital scale and a box of plastic bags were found in the apartment. The complaint states that during his interview McDonald asked, “so I’m getting arrested for a note that you found in my car?”
“The protection of citizens’ civil rights, including the right to live free from race-based discrimination and intimidation, is a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory J. Haanstad for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local partners to bring federal resources to bear on those who violate the rights of any of our fellow citizens to live where they choose.”
“The 30-month sentence of William McDonald is a direct outcome of the unrelenting efforts and dedication of federal and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors to protect the rights of every Wisconsin citizen to live in a safe and protected environment free from race-based violence,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Hensle of the FBI Milwaukee Field Office. “Additionally, the Milwaukee Field Office of the FBI along with all its law enforcement partners are unwavering in their joint commitment to combat any and all crimes and discrimination based on race and ethnicity with the goal to make Wisconsin a safer and more inclusive community for everyone.”
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F07%2F25%2Fwest-allis-man-sentenced-to-30-months-for-racist-harassment%2F by Isiah Holmes