Two men indicted in attack on Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills
A federal grand jury has indicted two men for allegedly assaulting and threatening five people at a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills while shouting anti-Turkish slurs.
Harutyun Harry Chalikyan, 23, of Tujunga, and William Stepanyan, 23, of Glendale, were named in an indictment unsealed Tuesday that charged them with one count of conspiracy and five counts of committing hate crimes.
Both defendants, prosecutors said, are Armenian American. The attack last fall came a few weeks after tens of thousands of people protested outside the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills in solidarity with Armenia following clashes that broke out with neighboring Azerbaijan over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey had expressed support for Azerbaijan.
Chalikyan was arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty at an arraignment, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Stepanyan is in state custody and expected to appear in federal court in June. It was unclear who is representing him.
The indictment alleges that on Nov. 4, Stepanyan sent a text message saying that he planned to go “hunting for [T]urks” that night. Shortly after, he and Chalikyan attended a rally with other Armenian Americans in Glendale related to the overseas conflict.
Following the rally, the indictment said that about nine people, including Stepanyan and Chalikyan, drove to Café Istanbul in Beverly Hills. The restaurant isn’t named in the indictment but it’s been identified by the Beverly Hills Police Department, which helped investigate the incident.
The defendants entered the restaurant and attacked five people, including the operator of the restaurant and employees, according to the indictment, which said four of the victims were Turkish. The Beverly Hills Police Department has reported that six to eight people carried out the attack.
Stepanyan, the indictment alleged, kicked over a plexiglass barrier and tables, and rushed toward three people near the back of the restaurant. The indictment said one or both defendants shouted, “We came to kill you! We will kill you!”
The defendants threw at least one chair toward the victims, smashed glassware, ripped out computer terminals and stole an iPhone before fleeing the restaurant, the indictment said.
The indictment said two of the victims were injured as they tried to escape and that another suffered injuries while ducking from a chair that was thrown. It holds the defendants caused at least $20,000 in damage to the restaurant.
Following the attack, the owners’ son told The Times that anonymous callers to the restaurant had been making death threats against the owners and vowed to “burn down your restaurant while you’re eating breakfast with your family.” Signs fixed to the business’ windows after the incident read, “Armenians attacked this business.”
If convicted of all charges, Stepanyan and Chalikyan each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Times staff writer Matt Ormseth contributed to this report.
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