Clara City couple seek answers in the aftermath of a racially driven hate crime on Highway 12
What started out as a trip to the Twin Cities last month ended with a Clara City couple running for their lives from a man who is accused of threatening them with a nail-studded board, chasing them with his pickup and repeatedly ramming their vehicle — all while screaming racially vile and profane words at them. “We were so terrified,” said Lynette Rounds. “He was trying to kill us.”
During a recent interview at their cozy, century-old home, Lynette and Ricardo Rounds talked about the incident that left them with a smashed car and a shattered sense of security and safety.
“It’s taken its toll on us,” said Lynette Rounds, who believes she and her husband, Ricardo, were singled out for the attack because they are African American.
“I’ve never experienced racism before in my life,” said Lynette, 60, who had called the Twin Cities home for most of her life before moving to Clara City in 2009 because she says she likes the tranquility of rural life in central Minnesota.
“I don’t feel safe anymore,” said Ricardo, 53, who grew up in the South but said he has never before been the target of the kind of hate-filled anger and violence that he described that day from William Richard Dugan.
Dugan, 53, of Grove City, is in custody in Meeker County on $500,000 bail. He faces multiple felony assault charges after the Nov. 19 incident that occurred on U.S. Highway 12 just west of Grove City.
Meeker County Attorney Tony Spector said he’s researching the possibility of adding a “hate crime” charge because of the racially offensive language Dugan allegedly used during the incident.
“I take victim crimes very seriously,” said Spector, who called the incident “very bizarre.”
According to the police report, the chain of events unfolded when Dugan allegedly parked his pickup across both lanes of Highway 12 on the afternoon of Nov. 19, reportedly so that he could look for his dogs.
Several vehicles drove around the pickup on the shoulder of the road, but when Ricardo and Lynette Rounds tried to drive their car around the pickup, they said Dugan put his truck into gear and their vehicles collided.
When Ricardo got out of the car to look at the damage, he said Dugan started screaming at him, repeatedly used the “N” word and threatened to hit him with a 2 x 4 board that had long spikes protruding from it.
“We didn’t know what that crazy guy was going to do next,” said Lynette, who was in the car calling 911.
Ricardo said he grabbed the board in self-defense and the two fought, with Dugan allegedly trying to bite Ricardo’s hand.
According to the Rounds’ recollection of the day and the police report, Dugan got back in his pickup truck and started driving toward the Rounds’ car, which Lynette had since exited.
Dugan rammed their car, backed up and rammed it again and again and pushed it into the ditch.
He then allegedly used his truck to chase the couple around a second vehicle that had stopped on the highway.
The Rounds ran on foot around the vehicle as Dugan pursued them in his pickup.
“He kept flying by and trying to hit us,” said Ricardo. “He was trying to hurt me. He was trying to hurt my wife.”
Lynette said she ignored her physical limitations. “My brain told me to run for my life,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
Dugan got close enough to the second vehicle to break off its mirror, before law enforcement arrived and arrested Dugan.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Spector.
Along with recuperating from injuries to his neck, Ricardo said the incident packed an emotional wallop. He had been taking classes at Ridgewater College in Willmar but hasn’t had the energy to go back since that day.
“It’s put me in a real dark place,” he said.
Lynette said it took two weeks for her to sleep through the night.
On top of that, the couple received a letter recently from Dugan’s insurance company denying payment for any of the Rounds’ expenses because it was not an accident but an intentional act by Dugan.
“It’s been a rough, rough end of the year,” said Ricardo.
Dugan is charged with two counts of attempted assault in the first degree, two counts of assault in the second degree with a dangerous weapon and damage to property in the first degree — all felony charges, as well as a misdemeanor charge of damage to property in the fourth degree.
He also faces another charge of assault in the fourth degree against a correctional employee — a felony — for allegedly spitting on an officer.
That incident happened Nov. 20 in Dugan’s jail cell when officers saw Dugan with a plastic garbage bag over his head. While removing it, Dugan reportedly spit on the officer’s face and then attacked him.
In June of this year Dugan was convicted for biting a deputy who was handcuffing Dugan for another incident.
Lynette Rounds said she hopes Dugan serves jail time.
“That would make me feel better,” she said. “He needs to be held accountable.”
Ricardo said he also hopes Dugan gets treatment.
“He’s got some anger management issues,” said Ricardo.
Dugan has been appointed a public defender. An omnibus hearing that was conducted Dec. 12 will be continued on Feb. 2.