Family members of Shayan Mazroei, an Iranian-American college student who was slain outside a Laguna Niguel pub earlier this month, called for authorities to investigate his death as a hate crime during a news conference Monday.
Mazroei, who was a student at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, died at a hospital after being stabbed during an altercation near Patsy’s Irish Pub on Sept. 7.
The incident apparently began when a woman at the pub made hateful comments toward Mazroei, according to the family's attorney Neama Rahmani.
The woman's boyfriend, Craig Matthew Tanber, then got involved in the incident, Rahmani said.
Tanber, who has a prior conviction for voluntary manslaughter, allegedly stabbed Mazroei once they were outside the pub.
Tanber was arrested several days later at a motel in Westminster and has been charged with murder in Mazroei's death.
He was described as a “third-striker, white supremacist gang member parolee,” by the Orange County District Attorney's Office and is a member of the PEN1 gang, according to Rahmani.
The Anti-Defamation League's website describes PEN1 (Public Enemy Number 1) as a white supremacist gang.
Family members say Mazroei was targeted because of his race.
"This wasn't supposed to happen. It was a racist act," said Mazroei's girlfriend, Madilyn Legaard. "This isn't the type of thing that should happen to a 22-year-old kid."
A coalition of civil rights, faith, and advocacy groups, have submitted a letter to the Department of Justice urging them to open a federal hate crime investigation into Mazroei's death, according to a news release from the National Iranian American Council.
"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," the letter read.
Another plea for authorities to investigate the death as a hate crime took place during Monday's news conference in Irvine.
“I think it’s a fair assumption to say that he and his girlfriend did not hold Iranian-Americans in high esteem, and that may have been motivation for the murder,” Rahmani said.
The family would also like to see charges filed against Tanber's girlfriend, according to Rahmani.
A vigil in honor of Mazroei was planned for 6 p.m. outside the Orange County District Attorney's Office.