Nicole Poole, an Iowa woman who was recently charged with hate crimes for a string of racially-motivated attacks, is no stranger to law enforcement. Poole has told her ex-husband that she would kill him over a child custody dispute, stabbed a boyfriend in the chest and threatened to do the same to another.
Despite her numerous crimes and mental health issues, Poole remained a free woman up until her recent arrest. The Iowa criminal justice system repeatedly offered her breaks, and she was neither jailed nor institutionalized. Many are now seeing this as a systematic and systemic failure on the part of Iowa’s criminal justice system.
On December 9, Poole drove her SUV onto the sidewalk outside a junior high school in Des Moines in order to hit a 14-year-old girl. According to police, her reasoning for doing so was because the girl “looked Mexican.” The girl was injured, requiring two days in the hospital to treat her.
Later that same day, Poole drove her vehicle toward a pedestrian again, a 12-year-old black boy who was walking home from school. The boy was unhurt, thankfully, but Poole fled the scene to a gas station where she would be arrested for throwing objects at customers and clerks and hurling racial slurs at everyone in earshot.
After being arrested, Poole’s story made national headlines. Police stated that she was “fidgety,” with dilated pupils and highly agitated. She admitted to having taken meth earlier in the day, which could explain her incredibly erratic physical behavior.
She has been charged with two counts of attempted murder, among other crimes, and will face trial on February 3.
Her arrest, however, has also led to closer scrutiny into her prior offenses.
While her very high-profile case will now be receiving national attention, her prior offenses were minor by comparison. How a clearly mentally unwell person with a history of violence and drug abuse was left walking free remains unclear, and appalling.
Despite numerous jail stints and run-ins with the law, Poole managed to avoid prison time and consistently evaded treatment for her mental illness and drug addiction. Now, one must wonder how things could have been different had she not been treated in such a laissez-faire manner.