A disturbing crime in New Mexico -- three men are accused of branding a swastika on a mentally challenged man's arm. Prosecutors say they will pursue hate crimes charges against the men.
The men -- Jesse Sanford, 24, William Hatch, 28, and Paul Beebe, 26, allegedly forced the 22-year-old victim from the Navajo Indian reservation into a car and driving him to an apartment. Once there, they allegedly branded him using a heated metal clothes hanger. Police say they also shaved a swastika into his hair and drew degrading words and pictures on his body with permanent marker.
After police say they kicked him out of the apartment, a clerk at a convenience store found him and called 911.
Police took the victim to a hospital, where they were able to wash off the degrading speech and pictures. A barber cut the man's hair to remove the swastika. Police are also talking with a plastic surgeon about having the tattoo removed.
The men later were arrested and charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and other felony charges. They are in jail -- bail is set at $150,000.
"We'll explore every conceivable available avenue in charging them with a hate crime because what happened to the victim was so horribly wrong," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Sarah Weaver.
A search of the suspects' apartment turned up evidence that the men are involved with white supremacists. "We haven't identified this as a gang-related crime. That is still under investigation," Sgt. Robert Perez said. "But they appear to be associated in some fashion to the white supremacist movement."
But the suspects are telling a different story. Sanford told police the victim came into a McDonald's restaurant where the three men worked and was looking for a place to stay. Sanford claimed that the victim asked for the haircut and a tattoo. He said he "wanted the swastika design because it was a tribal symbol," according to court records.