Supremacist is killed in racial confrontation
by rik hayman
photo by Mark Hertzberg
cutline: After the shooting, Racine police officer Todd Schulz looks for evidence in bushes near Starvin Marvin Speedway, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Ohio Street. A man died Sunday after being shot there in a racially motivated incident
New Jersey man leaving Racine after attending a white supremacist concert at Memorial Hall was shot to death early Saturday during a confrontation with black customers at a convenience store.
A black man, Naseer Ghani, 19, of Racine, was arrested on a charge of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the slaying.
A white man, Joe L. Rowan, of Toms River, N.J., died at St. Mary's Medical Center shortly after the 2:15 a.m. shooting at Starvin' Marvin's /Speedway gas station, 4620 Washington Ave.He turned 22 Saturday.
The concert featured six white supremacist bands. Rowan was a singer with a band named Nordic Thunder. About 20 to 30 concertgoers stopped at the convenience store to buy beer and snacks on their way to a post-concert gathering in Hartford (about an hour northwest of Racine) to "party a little more," Racine police spokesman Sgt. Kurt Wahlen said.
When the group became rowdy and started damaging the store, a male clerk alerted police by pushing an alarm. He then retreated to a back room and waited for officers to arrive.
At some point, members of the group traded insults and racial slurs with one or more black customers in the store.
It was then that a man pulled out a gun and fired several times. One of the shots struck Rowan in the left side below his shoulder.
When officers arrived, they found the injured Rowan in the back of a pickup truck outside the convenience store.
Other concertgoers shouted racial epithets as they pointed at a man walking away from the store. They said he was the gunman.
The man, later identified as Ghani, was taken into custody.
After several hours of questioning, police arrested Ghani in connection with the shooting. He remained in the Racine County Jail late Saturday.
Ghani's attorney, Mark Richards, said Saturday evening that his client is innocent of the charges and was arrested based simply on the word of white supremacist witnesses who "pointed out the first black person they saw."
Ghani went inside the store to get a friend who was paying for gas when the trouble started, Richards said.
He also said his client believes one of two black men in a white late 1980s Park Avenue was the actual shooter. The car had a blue top and Illinois license plates. He urged anyone with information about the men to come forward.
"(Ghani) provided no written, typed or videotaped statement to police," that would implicate him in the
crime, Richards said. "My client didn't do it."
"My client's worked every day of his life. He's not the type of kid who carries a gun," he said.
Richards said Ghani took cover behind a counter. After the trouble, he and some friends walked about a block away and waited until police arrived, then returned to the store.
Richards said Ghani, a 1993 graduate of Park High School, has worked as a Head Start teacher's aide at the Community Action Agency Inc., 72 Seventh St.
He was wanted on an outstanding warrant for battery but otherwise has no criminal record as an adult, according to both police and Richards.
Rowan's family included his wife, Sheila, and two children: a 3-year-old son, Gavin, and a 3-month old daughter, Kelsea.
Contacted at her home in Toms River, Sheila Rowan said her husband was shot only because he was a skinhead.
Rowan said she heard the news from a friend in Racine.
"It's just a shame that somebody can take somebody else's life without thinking about that person, if that person is a father, and they just shot," she said. "He had a really close bond with his son. How do you tell your 3-year-old that his father isn't coming home?"
The couple had been together for about six years. They were married in June 1991. Joe Rowan was a native of New Town, Pa. The couple moved to Toms River about four years ago.
Besides being a musician, Joe Rowan worked at a motorcycle repair shop doing inventory work. Rowan said she supported her husband's white supremacist beliefs and described herself as a skinhead.