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Recent anti-Asian attacks include spitting, punching, racial slurs

Three women with signs that say Stop AAPI Hate, No Place for Hate, and Stop Hate Crimes
Community members rally against anti-Asian racism on March 22 in Los Angeles.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

A recent rash of anti-Asian hate crimes in California is continuing, with more verbal and physical assaults reported in the last week.

An Asian American woman was spat on and called racist slurs in her own garage. Another woman was punched and bombarded with racial comments in a park.

For the record:

10:01 p.m. April 15, 2021A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark as Leticia.

On a bus in Eagle Rock, an attacker apparently mistook an elderly Latina woman for Asian, calling her an anti-Chinese slur before reportedly pulling her hair and breaking her nose.

Seemingly bothered by the drumbeat of hate, a Korean man in Orange County allegedly kidnapped a woman he thought was white but who turned out to be Asian.

Experts said an increase in anti-Asian attacks began in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic intensified, with the attacks spiking sharply in recent months.

Some attackers have seized on the virus’ Chinese origins to erroneously blame Asian Americans for the pandemic.

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Law enforcement officials have said a shooting rampage at spas in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, did not appear to be motivated by racial bias. But for many Asian Americans, the massacre last month by a 21-year-old white man was the culmination of a year of anti-Asian hatred.

Even before the Atlanta-area spa attacks that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, volunteer groups have sprung up to defend their Asian American communities in California.

“This has been with us for at least a solid year and likely to be much longer,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate.

From March 2020 to February, nearly 3,800 attacks against Asian Americans nationwide were reported to Stop AAPI Hate. A report by the groupthat will be released in the next few weeks shows a “significant increase” in anti-Asian attacks in the last year, Kulkarni said.

“Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg through February,” she said.

Initially, many of the attacks that gained widespread media attention were violent assaults against elderly Asian pedestrians for which authorities did not determine a motive because the attacker did not say anything racist.

Other attacks have included racial slurs, sometimes accompanied by physical assaults.

On Tuesday, a man followed an Asian woman into her garage, shouted racial insults and spat in her face, said Lt. Lauren Caputo of the El Cerrito Police Department.

The man, Ricky Amos, 56, was described as homeless and did not know the victim, Caputo said.

Amos was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of battery and vandalism with a hate crime enhancement. He also faces charges of violating sex offender registration requirements.

About 68% of the anti-Asian attacks documented during the pandemic were verbal harassment, 21% were shunning and 11% were physical assaults.

In Tustin on Sunday morning, an 18-year-old Korean American woman was preparing to teach a private art lesson in Veterans Sports Park when a man approached her and made comments about her appearance, according to the Orange County Register.

“When I said I’m Korean, it was like he got excited,” the woman, Jenna Dupuy, told the Register.

About an hour later, the man returned and grew increasingly threatening, with several parkgoers asking him to leave.

“The suspect made racial comments and punched her in the stomach,” Lt. Stephanie Nichols of the Tustin Police Department said in a written statement.

Dupuy pepper-sprayed the man, and he fled the scene before officers arrived.

Jauhar Tajuddin Shuaib, 42, of Irvine was arrested on suspicion of a hate crime, assault, sexually motivated annoyance, abusive language and other offenses, Nichols said.

Dupuy said she suffered a concussion and fractured shoulder, among other injuries.

Calling it a “horrific incident,” Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark said the city will not tolerate bigotry or racism.

“I am profoundly disturbed by both the rise in hate crimes directed at our Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors across the county and the recent incident in Veterans Sports Park,” Clark said in a statement. “As a community, we cannot be silent about these crimes.”

The city is creating a hotline for reporting hate crimes, she said, and will be offering a self-defense class in the near future.

There were 15 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the city in 2020, compared to seven in 2019

In Eagle Rock, a 70-year-old Mexican American woman was reportedly attacked Friday while trying to get off a Metro bus. Witnesses said the attacker used an anti-Chinese slur against the woman before assaulting her.

The woman’s nose was broken and her hair was pulled, her son told the Eastsider, adding that his family members are often mistaken for Asian.

Yasmine Beasley, 23, was arrested on suspicion of felony battery, said Officer William Cooper, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman.

Cooper said he did not know whether prosecutors were pursuing hate crime charges.

In a statement about the incident, Metro expressed condolences to victims of hate crimes on the transit system and said it has a zero-tolerance policy for violence against customers or employees.

“We strongly condemn any offenses done in the name of race, religion, sex or national origin,” the agency said.

Kokumai has not yet decided if she will file a police report but said she shared the incident with her 25,000 Instagram followers to get the word out.

Experts say the rise in hate crimes is linked to anti-Asian rhetoric arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, then-President Trump called the coronavirus “the Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”

“Trump’s role in exacerbating and igniting this firestorm can’t be denied,” said Karen Umemoto, director of the Asian American Studies Center at UCLA, noting that a recent study found a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags in the week after Trump tweeted about “the Chinese virus.”

Stop AAPI Hate and other organizations are pushing for improvements in education, data collection and legislation, including a civil rights infrastructure that would allow people to report hate incidents and have more access to victims’ resources.

In what police described as an attempt to retaliate for hate crimes against Asians, a man in Lake Forest kidnapped a woman, held her at gunpoint in her car and groped her.

When the victim yelled to a nearby maintenance worker for help, the man, identified by police as 37-year-old Michael Sangbong Rhee, ran through an apartment complex before fleeing in his own vehicle.

Surveillance cameras captured his license plate as he sped away, police said.

Rhee, who is of Korean descent, was arrested April 8 on suspicion of kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual assault.

Hate crime charges were later added to the complaint, said Sgt. Karie Davies of the Irvine Police Department.

The woman was not white, as authorities say Rhee had thought, but Asian, Davies said.

Times staff writer Laura J. Nelson contributed to this report.


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