Hate Speech is Not Free Speech: Chilean Students’ Killer had a History of Xenophobia

On the morning of Thursday, February 27, 14 friends gathered at a townhome in Miramar Beach, Florida for a party. At around 1:45 am, Dannie Roy Baker, who lived in the same complex as the hosts, crossed the compound with a rifle and opened fire on the partygoers.

By the time police arrived at the scene, five people had been shot—two of them fatally—and the shooter had returned to his home, where he awaited the arrival of police. Since his arrest, Dannie Baker has not spoken to the police so his motive for the killings is not known. But enough information has come out to indicate that it was at least partially motivated by the fact that the victims’ were not native-born Americans. All 14 people at the party, including Baker’s five victims, are Latinos. The two he killed were Chilean students visiting the US as part of a work-study program.

The story is not getting widely picked up in the national media and one of the first places to compile details was the Daily KOS, who reports that Dannie Baker had volunteered with the local Republican Electoral Committee during the 2004 presidential race, after which he apparently sent “radical” and “inappropriate” emails to other members. Baker’s emails were so disturbing that they were reported to the local sheriff’s department but, because the emails did not contain threats against a specific person, the sheriff’s department took no further action against him. The actual text of these emails has not yet been released.

Although Baker had no history of violence, it appears he was not entirely mentally or emotionally stable. According to Jim Anders, a member of the Republican Executive Committee, Baker was very “eccentric” and seemed to have “some emotional problems.” And Crystal Lynn, a neighbor of Baker’s, says “he did come up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrant in my house to get them out.”

Until more information comes out, there’s no way to know what Dannie Baker wrote in those emails that so troubled people that they reported him to the police. Hopefully, he didn’t write about killing immigrants because that would mean the sheriff’s department screwed up big-time by not investigating him further and putting him someplace where he could not be a threat to others. A direct threat against a specific person should justifiably be grounds for police action, but so should threats against a specific group. After all, a hate crime does not target a specific person but it does target a specific group, identified by race, nationality, sexual orientation, or some other collective identity marker.

So if it turns out that Baker had made threats against Latinos or any other immigrant group, the Sheriff’s department should explain why they took no further police action against him. Freedom of speech permits deranged and sane people alike to say whatever they please, but if one of those crazy people rants against foreigners, sends “radical” and “inappropriate” emails, and tells his neighbor to get immigrants out of her house, that ought to be grounds for the local police to do something. Now two people are dead, three are wounded, and an entire community is traumatized. But of course, until the contents of Baker’s emails are released, there’s no way to know if he had made threats against a specific racial group.

At the end of the day, hate speech is not free speech, but it seems many Americans have trouble distinguishing the two. Or perhaps, with more Americans joining hate groups and anti-immigrant rhetoric—to say nothing of anti-immigrant action—becoming more mainstream, the question should not be whether Americans can recognize hate speech but whether and to what extent they are bothered by it. (The fact that several news outlets have mentioned the victims’ immigration status—as if that is relevant to the case!—further illustrates this country’s obsession with immigration. God only knows what the news coverage of this hate crime would look like if the victims had been in the country without the proper immigration paperwork!)

Now, twenty-three-year-old Nicolas Corp-Torres and twenty-two-year-old Racine Baldontin-Aragondona—two of Dannie Baker’s victims—are dead. But they might still be alive had local law enforcement understood, or cared about, the difference between hate speech and free speech the first time they had to deal with Dannie Baker.


19 thoughts on “Hate Speech is Not Free Speech: Chilean Students’ Killer had a History of Xenophobia

  1. Pingback: Anti-"Immigrant" Hate Speech Targeted in FCC Campaign - Illegal Immigration - Page 2 - City-Data Forum

  2. When we already have a country with so much ignorance and anger over immigration issues, you get a “crazy” extremist in the mix and the result will always be tragic…

    “…Dannie Baker had volunteered with the local Republican Electoral Committee during the 2004 presidential race, after which he apparently sent “radical” and “inappropriate” emails to other members. Baker’s emails were so disturbing that they were reported to the local sheriff’s department….”

    Before that, Dannie used to let international students live with him for free every summer, just to help them out.


    Virginia Republicans campaigning to keep control of the General Assembly this year are vowing to crack down on illegal immigration. Out of the five states with state elections this November, illegal immigration is hottest as a campaign theme in Virginia, according to several political observers.

    But the immigration question is also being raised on the campaign trail by candidates in the races for Kentucky and Louisiana governor and the Mississippi lieutenant governor’s contest. Candidates are capitalizing on voter anger over illegal immigration, especially after Congress failed this summer, for the second year in a row, to pass major immigration reforms.

    “There’s a general frustration on people’s part regarding the federal government, that it’s not doing what needs to be done on illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is growing, it’s costing taxpayers money, it’s overcrowding schools,” said Susan Stimpson, campaign manager for Richard Stuart, a GOP candidate for Virginia Senate.

    Stuart, who is running for the seat of a retiring 29-year veteran of the state Legislature, is promoting measures to let local sheriffs enforce immigration laws by cooperating with federal authorities. His campaign Web site promises he “will not support the use of a single taxpayer dollar being spent on services for those here illegally, including in-state college tuition.”

    Republican leaders of the Virginia House and Senate unveiled a legislative package in August that would prohibit illegal immigrants from attending Virginia colleges and universities and require local sheriffs to work closely with federal authorities to keep illegal immigrants suspected of crimes in jail.

    Other GOP candidates are calling for cutting off a wide range of state benefits now being collected by some illegal immigrants, including workers compensation. Although neither of them are up for election, state Attorney General Robert McDonnell (R) stoked the debate by pushing Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine to let state police take part in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, which allows specially trained police to enforce immigration laws by alerting federal authorities when they imprison illegal immigrants.

    In Stuart’s legislative race, the Democratic candidate, Albert Pollard, is pushing his own ideas for cracking down on illegal immigrants and the businesses that hire them. For example, he proposed setting up a statewide database to keep the fingerprints of illegal immigrants who have served jail time; businesses could check the database over the Internet to make sure their new hires aren’t in the country illegally.

    Still, Virginia Democratic Party spokeswoman Danae Jones criticized Republicans for using immigration as a campaign issue. “Everybody, regardless of partisan affiliation, recognizes what a problem it is,” she said. “It is a shame that illegal immigration is so politicized when it’s frankly a problem for President Bush.”

    Elsewhere, Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), trailing in the polls to Democrat Steve Beshear, recently announced that state prisons would take part in the 287 (g) program. Fletcher said if he is re-elected, he’d push the Legislature next year to allow local governments in Kentucky to take part, too.

    Click here to see the Stateline.org interactive guide to the 2007 elections (Flash)

    Mississippi Auditor Phil Bryant (R), in his bid to become lieutenant governor, proposes ensuring that state contracts only go to businesses that don’t hire illegal immigrants. He also wants to require vehicle owners to have a valid Mississippi driver’s license to get a license plate and proposes keeping tabs on how many illegal immigrants are apprehended in Mississippi each year. Bryant’s Democratic opponent, Jamie Franks, vowed to convene a statewide study to determine how to deal with the influx of immigrants – both legal and illegal – hired to help the Gulf Coast rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

    Immigration has been far less of a campaign issue in Louisiana, where an unknown number of Hispanics have flocked to New Orleans and nearby parishes to aid in the clean-up effort. Jason Dore, a spokesman for the state’s Republican Party, said after the storm and the exodus of so many residents, “we’re thankful for anyone who’s coming to New Orleans.”

    Pollsters say the issue has come up so little, they haven’t even surveyed voters about their attitudes on the topic. The election cycle starts with a run-off primary Saturday (Oct. 20) and will include the contest of who replaces Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D).

    Bernie Pinsonat, an analyst for Southern Media and Opinion Research, noted that natives of New Orleans weren’t losing jobs to the newcomers. And Robert K. Goidel, the director of political policy research at Louisiana State University, said the governor’s race has been so one-sided that the heavily favored candidate, U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R), hasn’t had to answer many tough questions.

    But the Republican Governors Association targeted the issue when it touted Jindal, in an ad (click here to view the ad) this summer in which Jindal rejects the idea of “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. “We’ve got to enforce our laws, make sure people coming into our country want to learn our language, our values. We can’t lose what it means to become an American,” Jindal, who would become the first Indian American governor in the country if he wins, says in the ad.

    In New Jersey, immigration has been eclipsed on the campaign trail by ethical issues, after four state lawmakers were indicted this year. Immigration did emerge briefly as a campaign issue, following a public outcry after Newark authorities said they suspected at least two illegal immigrants in the August slaying of three college students. For example, two Republican legislative candidates criticized Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and fellow Democrats for not fighting illegal immigration quickly enough.

    The renewed focus on immigration in Virginia comes as the GOP tries to defend its majorities in the House and Senate this year, when all 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot. Republicans hold a four-seat edge in the Senate and an 11-seat advantage in the House of Delegates.

    Commonwealth voters have handed Democrats significant victories recently, including the last two gubernatorial elections and last year’s high-profile contest between victor Jim Webb (D) and incumbent George Allen (R) that gave control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats.

    Pushing an illegal immigration agenda gives Republicans there a chance to distract voters’ attention from other issues Democrats have hammered them on, especially in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in northern Virginia.

    One of those issues is traffic. Kaine won election in 2005, promising to relieve congestion on the region’s clogged roads. Legislative Republicans resisted efforts to pay for transportation improvements with a tax increase, but the deal they struck with the governor proved enormously unpopular as well.

    The $1 billion-a-year measure is paid for, in part, by “abuser fees” of hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars that Virginia drivers – not out-of-state motorists – must pay when they’re cited for serious offenses.

    In one northern Virginia contest, state Sen. Jay O’Brien (R) came under attack in TV ads by Democratic challenger George Barker, who highlighted O’Brien’s role as the Senate sponsor of the traffic fine legislation. O’Brien’s camp turned to the illegal immigration issue as it responded with a spot questioning Barker’s stance on the issue. The Democrat has said police should help enforce existing federal immigration laws and deny bail to illegal immigrants.

    Historical trends suggest the 2007 elections in Virginia promise to be low-turnout affairs, because no federal or statewide offices are in play. That means highly charged issues, such as roads or illegal immigration, could play a crucial role in determining whose supporters show up at the polls.


  3. Pingback: Luis Ramirez’s Killers About to Stand Trial « T’ings ‘n Times

  4. Pingback: Luis Ramirez Killers’ About to Stand Trial « T’ings ‘n Times

  5. Chris,

    Thanks for your comment.

    If you do indeed know Dannie Baker personally, I’m sorry you find yourself in this position today. But sadly this revelation is too little and too late for his victims and their friends and family.

    Dannie Baker may be insane—and I have no doubt he is—but what kind of insanity causes a person to focus their hatred on immigrants? Even worse, what causes them to target foreign students for murder?

    It’s a damn shame Dannie’s insanity was not discovered sooner: not by his neighbors, friends, family, or the police officers who investigated those letters he wrote.

    Otherwise, those kids might be alive today.


  6. As a child, I was best friends with Dannie Bakers kids. He was my dads best friends when they were younger and was married to my moms best friend. That friend divorced him when I was 9-10 years old. It was the last I saw of him. At the time he was what I thought was “a little odd,” but never was violent. It was known that he was not mentally “right” by people who knew him for a long time. I was shocked when I heard about this story. I am very sorry for the students and families who are having to experience this tragedy. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected Dannie to do something like this. He was always “religious” in some weird way, but never violent. Obviously over 25 years he has really gotten worse. Someone above wrote “dumb redneck” or something and that has nothing to do with it. You will learn as this trial takes place that Dannie is nuts. I can almost promise you that he will say he was doing what God told him to do. He was nuts 25 years ago, and obviously moreson now.


    • Chris, unfortunaly there are too many lNUTS in this country ( and in others too) Well , I am chilean ,and older ,and I cannot forgive them. They commit too many crimes in God’ name. I am sorry that you knew him.


  7. I`m very sad for this new. I`m chilean and all days watch on the tv, the parents and family of this students is really sad…
    the police and justice have a big work to do.

    I hope the families found one answer in their hearts is terrible think the families feels in this moment…

    All my love for all students…..


  8. Mighty Minnow and All,

    First, MM, I love your Blog and I think ALL of the Commenters here are Humanitarians! God Bless You! Together, I think WE ALL can stop the hate!

    I have called several Congresspeople and SPLC, MALDEF, the Border Angels and am writing about this on my Blog.

    We need to get National Media Attention on this story.

    We cannot allow the Hate Crimes against Latinos to continue. This IS against ALL Latinos in America because the weak minded that commit these crimes cannot distinguish who they term illegal aliens from anyone else.

    NO ONE DESERVES TO BE MURDERED! EVERY MURDER these Nativists commit is Wrong!

    Together we can get the attention of the National Media to STOP THE HATE, STOP Dobbs, Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage!

    Perhaps Humanitarians like all of us can be successful in STOPPING THE HATE!

    Immigration Talk with a Mexican American


  9. I think the real problem here is the facility to american people to get weapons… !!!!!I lived there and i wa shocked… every family have at least 2 wespons… Incredible…


  10. Everyone here! start to email the media and demand them to cover this story. Email CNN and Msnbc and demand coverage. It is time the media give an immigrant the coverage for a hate crime. I was born here and I just find there is something wrong here. I am wondering why Msnbc has not responded to my email.


    • Thank you Gabriel. How do we do that? Why don’t you start a movement? I am with you. Today is August 22 and only now i have learned about this tragedy, and believe me I watch the news and i keep myself informed. I am a chilean lady, and i am sad with this. I don’t think some people are going to change their hate, ignorance and racism about other groups of people. Who gave them the right to think they are the best in the world? There is a very black history in this country. They should be ashamed of what they have done and try to be better.


  11. I wrote the rachael maddow show in hope that she would cover this story but so far nothing yet. She is Msnbc. I would think if any media would cover this it would be rachel or Keith Oberman. This should really be a national media story.


  12. This post link to a couple of my posts through the automatic generator. For once, it has connected to a blog that I can get into.

    This is a very good post and hopefully, you will be able to keep following this criminal’s case. My best friend in the world grew up in Chile (he’s American, but his dad served in Antofagast for many years), so I have a special interest.

    I’m afraid that people like Glen Beck are hoping for the militia movements and “lone wackos” to come back for an encore performance in the U.S. I can only hope that law enforcement is up to what we are all possibly facing.

    And I feel for the families of those killed. I work with international students every day and worry about how they make it here. Sadly, this is not the first time visitors to our country have been killed by citizens with guns.

    And don’t even get me started on how the U.S. supplies the drug cartel in Mexico with both weapons and money . . . 60 Minutes tonight just scratched the surface.


  13. Excellent column!
    Of course this story is not getting widely picked up in the national media!
    And what’s so surprising about this racist and hater Dannie Baker sending such disturbing emails when we have some of those in our own media or at least that’s the message they convey. I can think of one in particular who has an evening program on T.V. Some of this media people keep on targeting immigrants, promoting hatred but without hesitation they’ll claim that they are unbias. After having watched and listened to some of these reporters you thank God these reporters don’t carry a gun!
    Unfortunately this country has a history of this type of hate crimes. All we need to do is to go back in time and go review the attrocities the famous or should I say infamous Ku Klux Klan committed towards innocent people. Shame on those who still commit this kind of attrocities either physically or verbally. Everyone has a responsibility to promote tollerance and the principles that have made this country a great nation and the media should not be excempt from it!


  14. I was born and raised in the US and am deeply ashamed of this fanatic’s actions. My heart goes out to the families of the students. I lived and worked in Chile for several years and my wife is Chilean. Chileans, as well as citizens of most other countries, do not understand the infatuation with guns in the US. If our gun laws are overly strict, as the NRA and other extremists claim, why did this hate-filled demented idiot have access to a weapon?


  15. What is truly disturbing is the fact that this tragedy has not been widely covered by all the media.Gee,I wonder why?
    I am originally from Chile and I feel sad and very upset over this attitude.I guess we are not “worthy” enough to reach American living rooms.
    Those two students were going to a major University,Racine was about to enter her final year in gastronomy as well as her boyfriend,the one that is in the hospital and unfortunately lost an eye during the brutal attack.Nicolas Corp was a commercial engineering student with a bright future,I guess we’ll never know how truly wonderful he could have been.
    I cannot imagine what their parents are going through right now and all because of the racism that permeates this beautiful land.
    I cringe whenever I see our President getting close to people during an outing because I fear with all my heart that some bastard could attempt against his life.
    What a waste and what a horrific tragedy,I just hope that justice will be served and that ugly redneck never sees the light of day again.
    Long live America,we shall prevail and one day we will all live in peace.
    For now,please be careful going South and everywhere else,hatred is alive and well there,




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