A Texas woman is facing a felony criminal mischief charge after she was accused of smashing the car windows of an interracial couple and yelling slurs at them during a December incident that the couple’s attorney is calling a hate crime.
Melissa Shelton, 29, was indicted by a grand jury in Guadalupe County, Texas, on February 1, attorney Justin Moore said in a press release. Moore is representing the victims in the case, Jacob and Victoria Chapa. Shelton is white, while Jacob Chapa is Mexican-American and Victoria Chapa is African-American, their attorney says.
The couple was in Marion, Texas, on December 10, 2017, when they “suffered a vicious and cowardly hate crime,” Moore wrote in the press release. Moore said the couple was looking at a house that was under construction that they were considering buying, when they saw Shelton smashing their car windows with a large rock.
Moore said when the couple confronted Shelton, she began yelling “racial epithets” at them, saying they “did not belong” in the community and were “poor Mexicans” who “could never afford to live here.”
Police responded, but no arrests were made at the scene. The case was then referred to prosecutors and presented to the grand jury. The Guadalupe County Attorney’s office, Marion Police and Shelton could not immediately be reached for comment. It is not known if she has hired an attorney.
“The first steps of justice. Hate has no home here anymore,” Moore said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Chapas Say Shelton Told Them ‘N*ggers’ & ‘Spics’ Were Not Welcome in Their Community After They Saw Her Smashing the Windows of Their Car
Jacob and Victoria Chapa were on their way to pick up their daughter from Jacob Chapa’s mother’s house when they stopped in the Marion Park area to look at homes in a new subdivision, because they have “been dreaming of finding a new home to raise their daughter, attorney Justin Moore said in a press release.
Moore said the couple figured that since they “were in Marion and would not be back for a while, it was the most opportune time to see this new neighborhood. The fact is, the Chapas, who like every young family in this country were merely dreaming of a better life for their young daughter, and in furtherance of fulfilling this dream, they were looking for a home in a neighborhood that they believed comports to their values.”
Moore said the couple were looking at a home under construction and got out of their car to take a closer look.
“As they were surveying the rear of the home, Mr. and Mrs. Chapa heard a loud noise coming from the front of the home,” Moore said. “As they walked back to their car to see what was happening, they witnessed Melissa Shelton … smashing their car windows with a large rock.”
A man, Mason Mycue, 20, was watching, Moore said. Mycue has not been charged in the case.
According to Moore, as the couple “approached the scene of the crime,” Shelton began screaming racial slurs at them. Lee Merritt, another attorney working with the family, wrote on Facebook that Shelton warned the couple “that n*gger and spics were not welcome in the community.”
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Merritt wrote on Facebook, “The Chapas visited their dream home in a community in the City of Marion Texas under the illusion that the Supreme Court’s decision and other Housing Discrimination legislation afforded them certain protections in the deep south. While they viewed the home, a white resident (Melissa Shelton), upset about the prospect of having a Mexican man and black woman move into her neighborhood, smashed a large concrete slab through their car’s window directly over the location where their child’s carseat was located.”
2. Shelton Told Police She Returned Home From a Restaurant & Was Accused of Breaking Windows ‘Before Even Getting Out’ of Her Car
Police were called to the scene of the incident on December 10, according to a report posted on Facebook by Justin Moore. Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to Lost Maples Way at 2:45 a.m. for a “disturbance involving a female who was breaking out the car windows of a 2008 Lincoln MXX,” the police report states.
The deputies “observed the front windshield of the vehicle was shattered and the back driver side window had been completely broken out with what appeared to be a broken piece of cement curb.”
Melissa Engel Shelton told police that she arrived home from a restaurant along with Mason Mycue and they “were approached and accused by a female of breaking windows before even getting out of their window.”
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Shelton denied breaking the windows. But the Chapas attorneys told The Root that when the man she was with, Mason Mycue, realized the couple had witnessed the incident, he tried to offer to pay for the windows.
Victoria and Jacob Chapa told police they saw Shelton approach their vehicle with a rock and proceed to break the windows.
No arrests were made at the scene and the case was turned over to the Marion Police Department to investigate. Marion Police eventually forwarded the case to the Guadalupe County Attorney’s office.
Justin Moore, an attorney for the couple, said in a press release that the officer didn’t make an arrest “despite clearly viewing the damage done.”
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3. The Couple’s Attorney Says the DA Should ‘Show Courage & Enhance Melissa Shelton’s Charge to That of a Hate Crime’
Justin Moore, the attorney representing the Chapas, said on Facebook that the Guadalupe County District Attorney’s office should “show courage and enhance Melissa Shelton’s charge to that of a hate crime.”
In a statement, Moore said the felony criminal mischief charge, “is a step in the right direction,” but “we retain a healthy level of caution.”
Moore added, “the crime reported on December 10, 2017, was one of hate; not mere mischief. We will continue to make appeals to the Guadalupe County Attorney’s office to ehance these charges to that of a hate crime. The facts are ripe for this charge, and it is important to the safety of all minorities in the state that a strong message is sent those who believe they can use intimidation to keep people of color out of spaces that should be available to all.”
Moore said in a statement posted on January 21, prior to the indictment:
Just imagine being out, enjoying a night with your significant other, and you stop by that neighborhood you’ve been dreaming of moving to. You’re a young couple, and you long for the day where you can have a nice home to raise your young family. Unfortunately, one of the residents there is so enraged by the fact of having persons of color in the neighborhood that she decides to intimidate you from buying a home there. She smashes your car windows with a sharp, broken piece of curb, while shouting out racial slurs. To make matters worse, when you call the local authorities, they flat out ignore your pleas for justice. How are you supposed to feel? You have just been told by that police department that it’s ok for people to commit crimes of hate against people of color. This is exactly what happened to the Chapa’s family. They felt so helpless due to the inaction of the Guadalupe County Police Department and the City of Marion police department that they reached out to my office and asked that we investigate this obvious hate crime and that we fight for them to receive justice for their victimization. Well, that’s what we are going to do. We will fight our hardest to ensure that the assailant suffers for this crime and send a message to folks who think they can get away with committing crimes against citizens who look different from them.
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Attorney Lee Merritt added in a statement, “Incidents like this act of terrorism and intimidation are common tactics used since segregation was deemed unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1948. Law enforcement plays a pivotal role in enforcing the law, a duty the Marion Police Department has been decidedly derelict in upholding in this case. If hate crime legislation, discrimination statutes and basic law and order is to mean anything, we must demand equal protection under the law for all citizens.”
4. Shelton, a Mom Who Works as an Operational Manager at a Call Center, Was Charged With Theft in 2009
Melissa Engel Shelton is from New Braunfels, Texas, according to her now deleted Facebook profile. Shelton, who said on Facebook she is a mother, works as an operations supervisor at a New Braunfels call center, according to a resume she posted online.
She previously worked at Sears as an assistant manager, along with jobs at a health care company, a trucking company and a Chrysler dealership.
According to online court records, Shelton, then 20, was arrested in Bexar County, Texas, in 2009 and charged with misdemeanor theft of items between $50 to $500. She was released on $1,000 bail in that case. Further detailsa about the incident were not immediately available.
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Shelton eventually pleaded no contest and entered into a 6-month deferred prosecution agreement, according to court records. As a result, the case was dismissed in January 2010.
5. She Faces Between 180 Days to 2 Years in State Jail if Convicted of the Felony Charge
Shelton faces between 180 days to two years in state jail if convicted of the felony criminal mischief charge, according to Texas state law. She could also face a fine of up to $10,000.
It is not clear if or when Shelton will be arrested on the charge following the indictment, or when she is set to appear in court. The case has been assigned to Guadalupe Assistant County Attorney Patton Zarate, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
Justin Moore said in a statement that Jacob and Victoria Chapa, “view the indictment” of Shelton “as long overdue and remain cautiously optimistic that justice will be served. It is a fact that it took nearly two months for charges to be filed in this case. The stress and trauma that the Chapa family experienced on the night in question, and the subsequent inability and disinterest in the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s department and the Marion Police Department to not only diligently investigate this crime but to be responsive to the Chapas’ pleas for recourse is troubling and indicative of deep systemic issues that seem to exist in both agencies. For minorities in this country, there is a need for our law enforcement agencies to honor the 14th amendment and provide equal protection under the law.”
Moore added that “how both agencies responded to this incident expemplifies why there is deep distrust by communities of color with teh police.”