California woman charged with hate crime after spitting at Asian American, yelling slur
A California woman accused of spitting at an Asian American stranger and using an ethnic slur during an unprovoked attack was charged with a misdemeanor hate crime and battery.
Karen Marie Inman, 39, allegedly told the victim to go back to “where you came from” during the Feb. 13 incident, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office said in a statement on Monday.
Inman reportedly approached the victim, a 36-year-old man of Asian descent who was dining outside with a friend in downtown Mountain View, and spat at him. She also allegedly used an ethnic slur.
She was initially recognized for reportedly taking food and clothing items at a store just steps away from the restaurant before the altercation, Mountain View police spokeswoman Katie Nelson said in a statement.
Inman allegedly told the store owners that she didn’t have to pay “because of their Asian ethnicity.”
When she was detained shortly later for questioning regarding the alleged theft, officers learned about the reported altercation at the restaurant.
Inman was released at the time because neither party wanted to press charges, police said. However, investigators were required by police policy to continue looking at the case and the DA’s office ultimately brought forth the hate crime charge.
“Our community stands together against any hatred and racism against the Asian Pacific Islander community,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “It is ignorant. It is wrong. And when it is criminal – those who are charged will face the full power of my Office to hold them accountable.”
Described by police as a transient, Inman was arrested on Friday and booked into the Santa Clara County Jail.
The two counts against Inman carry a maximum penalty of one and a half years in prison. The hate crime charge also comes with a mandatory community service requirement in the state of California, Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Leung told the Associated Press.
The case is the latest incident in a string of racially motivated assaults against Asian Americans exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China.
More than 3,000 incidents have been reported since the start of the health crisis last year, attacks that Democratic lawmakers and community activists say is directly linked to former President Trump and other political leaders using anti-Asian rhetoric when discussing COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Justice last month vowed to tackle the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.
“No one in America should fear violence because of who they are, what they look like or what part of the world they or their families came from,” acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement. “The Department of Justice and our component agencies are committed to bringing all of our tools to bear in supporting AAPI communities as we address the horrific rise in hate and bias incidents occurring across the country.”