SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors in Seattle and San Francisco have charged men with hate crimes in separate incidents that authorities say targeted people of Asian descent amid amid a wave of high-profile and sometimes deadly violence against Asian Americans since the pandemic began.
On Friday, prosecutors in King County, Washington, charged Christopher Hamner, 51, with three counts of malicious harassment after police say he screamed profanities and threw things at cars in two incidents last week targeting women and children of Asian heritage, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.
In San Francisco, Victor Humerto Brown, 53, made a first court appearance after authorities say he repeatedly punched an Asian American man at a bus stop while shouting an anti-Asian slur. Brown said in court that he has a post-traumatic stress disorder.
He was initially booked on misdemeanor counts, but prosecutors recently elevated the case to a felony, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
In Seattle, according to court documents, Hamner yelled profanities and threw things at a woman stopped at a red light with her two children, ages 5 and 10 on March 16. Three days later, authorities say Hamner cut off another car driven by an Asian woman, yelled a profanity and the word “Asian” at her and then threw a water bottle at her car after charging at her when she pulled into a parking spot.
Hamner was being held on $75,000 bail on Saturday. It wasn’t immediately clear if Hamner, who has not yet made a court appearance, had retained an attorney or would be assigned a public defender.
In the first instance, the woman told her 10-year-old daughter to try to take a cellphone photo of the man. The woman, identified by KIRO-TV as Pamela Cole, posted about the incident on social media and a friend’s husband identified Hamner as a possible suspect.
He sent the woman a photo he had taken of Hamner at the Veterans Affairs hospital, the newspaper reported and the sneakers he was wearing were the same in the photo the daughter had taken and in one on Hamner’s social media account.
The woman later provided the photos to a Seattle police detective who compared them to Hamner’s driver’s license photo and determined the photos appeared to be of the same person, the charges say.
The second woman who was accosted had a dashboard camera in her vehicle that captured the license plate of the other car, which is registered to Hamner, according to court documents. The police detective investigating the case reviewed the video and determined the women’s assailant “was clearly Hamner,” according to the charges.
Cole, who said she identifies as part Chinese and part Malaysian, told KIRO-TV she felt like “a sitting duck” when Hamner approached her car, hitting his fists together and screaming at her to “Get out! Get out!” while spewing profanities about her Asian heritage.
“I was in complete shock. Are you talking to me?” Cole told the station.
“He jumps out the car and he’s charging at us,” she said. “That was the scariest part for me.”
In San Francisco, Ron Tuason, an Army veteran of Filipino, Chinese and Spanish descent, told the Chronicle he was at a bus stop in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood on March 13 when Brown approached him, yelling “Get out of my country” before using a racial slur meant to denigrate Asian people. Tuason said Brown also said, “It’s because of you there’s a problem here.”
Tuason, 56, said he believes Brown was referring to the coronavirus. Brown punched him multiple times, he said, knocking him to the ground. He suffered a black eye and a swollen cheek as a result of the attack and said he’s also experiencing memory loss.
Police found Brown shortly after Tuason called 911.