COEUR D'ALENE - A north Idaho man accused of a hate crime says he is not a racist, and the entire case against him was blown out of proportion.
On Tuesday, a jury convicted Ira Tankovich of conspiracy to commit Disturbing the Peace, stemming from an incident where he and his three brothers reportedly harassed a hispanic family. In the case, Tankovich was found not guilty of the more serious charge of Malicious Harassment, but Tankovich is still in jail on a gun charge relating to this case. From his cell on Tuesday, Tankovich explained that he is not part of the Aryan Nation, and he is misunderstood."I don't think im better than anyone," Tankovich said.Tankovich can say that, but his tattoo that reads "Aryan Pride," indicates he might not believe it. "I know its ties and what other people assume it means," Tankovich said. "In California it doesn't have that meaning."Tankovich's definition of Aryan Pride is different than most. "I looked it up in the dictionary and it said nomadic tribesman and it applied to my nomadic lifestyle with my wife Connie," Tankovich said.Tankovich has moved several times, and he had just moved to north Idaho about a month before the incident that put him behind bars and on trial for the first north Idaho hate crime case to go to trial in several years.He was accused of pulling up to a hispanic family's home in a swastika adorned truck and yelling racial slurs."I felt extremely threatened, I didn't even know them. They didn't look like they were coming to say 'hello' to me. They just looked mean and angry," said victim Kenneth Requena in an interview last year."That dude, Kenneth Requena, is really paranoid because when we made our first stop it was an innocent stop. My brother is real friendly with neighbors and he wanted to ask an innocent question," Tankovich said. Police say Tankovich left the scene, but later returned with a gun. Tankovich says he came back because Requena pulled a gun on his brothers."Of course a person is going to want to make sure his family members are safe," said Tankovich.He says this whole incident has been blown out of proportion because of north Idaho's sensitivity to racism, and he wants to make it clear that he is not white supremacist. "I have a couple black friends, and some of them are muslim," Tankovich said. Tankovich says once he gets out of jail, one of his first stops will be a tattoo removal artist to get his "Aryan Pride" tattoo removed. "I started regretting this tattoo. I thought 'wow, I better get this removed,'" said Tankovich.