Skinhead convicted in bus stop slaying of black immigrant

Associated Press/March 17, 1999

Denver -- A skinhead was convicted of murder and attempted murder in the 1997 shooting death of a West African immigrant at a bus stop and the wounding of a bystander who came to the victim's aid.

The jury reached the verdict against Jeremiah Barnum, 25, on Monday. The color drained from his face when he heard the verdict.

He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

The jury also found Barnum guilty of ethnic intimidation.

Barnum is one of two white men accused in a shooting at a Denver bus stop that killed Oumar Dia, an immigrant from Senegal, and left Jeannie VanVelkinburgh paralyzed. The other defendant, 21-year-old Nathan Thill, is accused of pulling the trigger and will stand trial next month.

Prosecutors said Barnum and Thill killed Dia because he was black. Ms. VanVelkinburgh, who is white, was shot after she came to the aid of Dia.

"I do not have anything to celebrate about as the life of Oumar Dia is lost forever," said Mohamedou Cisse, Dia's childhood friend. "But I am satisfied that justice has been served."

The defense argued that Barnum had no idea Thill was going to open fire. They said Barnum has renounced his racist views.

"I don't think there was any evidence whatsoever that he still harbors any of the belief system that he had as a young man," said defense attorney Peter Bornstein.

Bornstein said he will appeal.

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