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Family Of Iranian-American Man Wants His Death Investigated As A Hate Crime

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Shayan Mazroei (Photo via Facebook)
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The family of a young Iranian-American man who was fatally stabbed outside of a bar in Laguna Niguel earlier this month want his death investigated as a hate crime. On September 7, Craig Tanber allegedly stabbed Shayan Mazroei as he was leaving Patsy's Irish Pub just after midnight. It was a bar where Mazroei's family said the 22-year-old Saddleback College student frequently visited to play pool.

Mazroei was pronounced dead a half an hour after the attack, while Tanber fled the scene and was missing for four days until Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT found him in a Motel 6 in Westminster. Though Tanber is a known member of a white supremacist gang, Mazroei's death is not being investigated as a hate crime. To do so, there would need to be evidence that Mazroei's race was a motivating factor in the alleged attack, despite Tanber's checkered past. Instead, investigators say that the pair were fighting over a female friend of Tanber's who said something rude to Mazroei, and that Tanber attacked Mazroei when he responded to the rude comments.

Mazroei's family, however, as well as the National Iranian American Council, believe that the evidence that the incident was racially motivated is there, and they're demanding justice, KTLA reports.

The key to this evidence is the woman who Tanber was with the night of the attack. She is being identified by Mazroei's family as Elizabeth Ann Thornburg. In a Change.org petition demanding justice for Mazroei, it claims that she's Tanber's long-time girlfriend and that witnesses overheard her making racist comments to Mazroei the night of the attack. They say that Thornberg and Tanber waited until Mazroei left, then ambushed him.

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The petition reads:

Both individuals need to held accountable to the full extent of the law. Despite overwhelming evidence, Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas, Larry Yellin, & OCDA chief of staff Susan Kang Schroeder, have characterized the incident as a "fight over a girl" & refused to acknowledge the racial motive in this case. The OCDA has yet to rigorously investigate Elizabeth (Beth) Ann Thornburg for her racist & criminal involvement in the death of Mr. Mazroei.

Mazroei's girlfriend, Madilyn Legaard, told KTLA: "This wasn't supposed to happen. It was a racist act. This isn't the type of thing that should happen to a 22-year-old kid."

The National Iranian American Council wrote in a release, "Reports that such violence was committed as a direct result of Mr. Mazroei’s Iranian heritage are a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and extremism persist in our day and age."

When Tanberg was arrested, authorities said they found him with a woman, though not the same woman he was with at Patsy's.

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Tanber was previously arrested in 2004 on suspicion of murdering Corey Lamons, 26, whose body was found in the bed of a pick-up truck when police pulled over members of Public Enemy Number 1 (PEN1), a white supremacist gang that sold and used meth. Lamons had supposedly stolen money from a woman who had dated a PEN1 gang member. Tanber was one of nine people accused in Lamons' murder, and ultimately took a plea deal in 2007 that resulted in 6 yeas in prison for manslaughter. Before all of that, he spent two years in prison after pleading guilty in 2001 to first-degree burglary. He was released on June 13.

There will be a candlelight vigil for Mazroei tonight at 6 p.m. at 401 W Civic Center Dr. in Santa Ana. More information can be found on the Justice for Shayan Mazroei Facebook page here.