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Murder, hate crime charges filed in killing of Black Navy veteran

Justin Peoples was getting quarters for laundry, his father said, when the attack took place in a Tracy, California, gas station.

Two suspects were charged with murder and hate crimes in the killing of a Black Navy veteran and youth pastor at a California gas station last week, authorities said Friday.

Prosecutors in San Joaquin County, south of Sacramento, accuse Jeremy Wayne Jones, 49, and Christina Lyn Garner, 42, of first-degree murder in the March 15 killing of Justin Peoples, 30, according to a criminal complaint. 

The charges carry a “special circumstance,” alleging Jones and Garner targeted Peoples because of race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion, making them eligible for a prison term of life without the possibility of parole.

Justin Peoples with his younger sister.
Justin Peoples with his younger sister.Courtesy Maurice Peoples

In a news release on the incident, the district attorney’s office provided photos of tattoos of a Swastika and the words “white power.” It wasn’t clear which suspect they belonged to. A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The district attorney’s office did not provide additional details about the alleged hate crime.

A third person was charged with being an accessory in the alleged crime.

In the news release, authorities said the killing occurred at a Chevron gas station in the city of Tracy. When officers found Peoples, he had been shot once and stabbed, the release says.

He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, Peoples' father, Maurice Peoples, said in an interview.

"He had the heart of a lion to survive but he just didn't make it," Maurice Peoples said.

Maurice Peoples said his son had gone to the gas station with his girlfriend to get quarters for laundry. The girlfriend, who stayed behind in their car, said that when Justin Peoples entered the gas station, the suspects followed him in, according to Maurice Peoples.

It isn't clear if there was a confrontation before Jones and Lyn allegedly shot and stabbed him.

Maurice Peoples said his son grew up in the nearby city of Stockton, in California's Central Valley. He attended San Joaquin Delta College before joining the Navy in 2010, Maurice Peoples said. He was medically discharged roughly a year later with ulcers, he said.

When he was killed, Justin Peoples was a youth pastor with a local church and worked two jobs delivering auto parts and packages, Maurice Peoples said. He had two sons, ages 11 and 2, the father said.

Maurice Peoples said that his son had a "big kind heart" and a big smile. "When he came around you could feel the light from his smile," he said.

A lawyer for Jones and Garner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.