Jury Convicts Santa Ana Man of Assault, Hate Crime

Times Staff Writer

A Latino who wielded a knife and shouted racial epithets at a black man was found guilty Monday of a hate crime.

Abel Castaneda, 39, of Santa Ana was convicted of making criminal threats and assault with a deadly weapon with the special circumstances of a hate crime.

Castaneda was riding his bicycle past Menchaca Auto Service in Santa Ana on Aug. 23, 2005, when he saw Steve Lawson, who had brought his car in for servicing.


Castaneda called out expletives and racial slurs, then threatened to kill Lawson, pulled out a knife and repeatedly lunged at him. Lawson, 40, avoided being stabbed by jumping back. On Castaneda’s third pass, Lawson grabbed his wrist and disarmed him.

Several witnesses, including the auto shop’s owner, chased Castaneda away. Police arrested him two days later. The shop owner, Manuel Menchaca, told investigators he didn’t see Lawson do anything to provoke the attack.

The hate crime enhancements could add an additional penalty of three years and eight months to Castaneda’s sentence. He could receive up to 11 years and four months in prison. Sentencing will be June 23.

The jury was comprised of seven whites, two Asians and three Latinos.