Fury as man who killed Black victim in “hate crime” not yet charged
The sister of a Black man stabbed to death by a white assailant who allegedly hurled racial slurs is furious prosecutors have not charged the suspect with murder. She has called the incident a “hate crime.”
Father-of-two Jon “Mike” Rone Jr., 42, was killed outside Liquor Land in Kansas City, Missouri, at around 2:30 p.m. on July 4.
According to a probable cause statement, multiple witnesses said the suspect, Sean W. Tonkin, was “repeatedly using the word ‘n*****’ prior to and during a verbal alteration with the victim.”
Tonkin, 36, has been charged only with a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace in connection with Rone’s killing, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail. He was also charged with possession of a controlled substance, a low-level felony, after police found less than a gram of methamphetamine on him when he was arrested, according to court documents reviewed by Newsweek.
Rone’s family are outraged that weeks after the killing, more serious charges have not been filed against Tonkin.
Rone’s older sister, who asked not to be named because she fears retaliation, told Newsweek that Tonkin was clearly the aggressor in the situation.
She said that a witness reported Tonkin had asked if she would like to see “a white boy f*** up a n*****” prior to stabbing her brother, a detail first reported by The Kansas City Defender, a Black nonprofit news startup.
“That’s intent,” Rone’s sister said. “This isn’t just murder. It’s a hate crime.”
Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, said the community is “rightfully angered by the disturbing racial comments of the defendant.”
“We have filed the available Missouri charges that address those racist comments which were made to Jon Rone in a face-to-face manner,” he said in a statement to Newsweek.
Mansur said before filing further charges, prosecutors are examining “who started the incident, what weapons were used by the people involved and Missouri’s law on self-defense. These factors will direct whether further State charges regarding Mr. Rone’s homicide can be filed.”
“Why would [my brother] be the aggressor?” Rone’s sister said. “This guy’s intent was to ‘f*** up a n*****’ like he said.”
She added: “I want justice so I can grieve properly. This is mental anguish that he is getting away with killing my brother.”
She described her brother as a loving father to his two adult children. “He didn’t see color. His girlfriend was white. We have a blended family. So this really hits home,” she said.
Rone’s girlfriend, Misty Beck, was with him the day he was killed. They were among a group of friends who would hang out at Liquor Land and play the slot machines there. Beck told The Kansas City Star that Rone had gone to the car to retrieve his hat when she overheard someone yell the N-word.
She said she went outside to find him with Tonkin and tried to get Rone to come inside. She recalled that he told her he was handling the situation and, just seconds later, a woman ran inside shouting for someone to call 911.
Beck also doesn’t understand why prosecutors have not filed more serious charges against Tonkin.
“I just don’t buy it,” she said. “The way that man walked up, called him all those names. Yeah, Mike could’ve turned the other cheek. But why? Why should he have to?”
Surveillance video from the store showed Rone, after retrieving a club from a vehicle, follow Tonkin to the side of the building. Witnesses said a physical altercation occurred and Rone was stabbed.
Police apprehended Tonkin about two miles away in Independence, Missouri, about a half an hour later.
He attempted to hide in the tree line when officers first spotted him, the probable case statement said. Officers saw he appeared to have blood on the top of his head, on his baseball cap and on a white T-shirt on the ground near him.
“How’d you find me?” he asked officers immediately after being taken into custody, the document added. Officers recovered a knife during a search, and testing reportedly found traces of blood on the blade.
Tonkin remains in custody in the Jackson County Detention Center. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Missouri is among 30 states that have enacted “stand your ground” laws that allow for the use of lethal force in self-defense, without any duty to retreat in some situations. Under Missouri’s law, such force can be lawfully used when a person “reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person” even in some situations where the person is the initial aggressor.
The state’s law and others like it came under the spotlight earlier this year after 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, who is Black, was shot by an elderly white homeowner after mistakenly ringing his doorbell in Kansas City, prompting an outcry.
Questions were raised about whether the homeowner, Andrew Lester, would be protected from prosecution by the state’s self-defense law after he was briefly detained and released following the shooting. He was later charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In his statement, Mansur said the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office “has a long and demonstrated history of addressing injustices perpetrated on victims due to racial hostility or enmity and those caused by the criminal justice system.”
In addition to the charges that have already been filed against Tonkin, he said the prosecutor’s office “is ready and willing to provide whatever assistance is necessary to our partners at the Justice Department in their review of this incident for possible federal charges under their available laws.”
Mansur added: “On behalf of all law enforcement partners, we wish to convey our condolences to the family of Mr. Rone. And we will continue to review this matter and add additional charges that are supported by Missouri law.”
An FBI spokesperson told Newsweek the bureau is “aware of the incident and is in contact with our law enforcement partners.”
The Justice Department has been contacted via its website for comment.