A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employee is under investigation after she was filmed ridiculing a Bay Area Muslim man who was praying in a park, and then threw an umbrella and coffee at the man, authorities said.
Denise Slader, a program technician with the department’s Adult Parole Operations, was reportedly filmed interrupting a prayer service about 3 p.m. Sunday at Lake Chabot in Castro Valley, officials said.
Rasheed Albeshari, 31, and his friends were playing volleyball and praying at the park -- a Sunday ritual for the three friends.
This time, it was different. Slader reportedly approached them and began “talking ... trash,” mostly about religion, Albeshari said. That’s when Albeshari said he decided to take out his cellphone and record the encounter with Slader. He later posted the video on Facebook.
Slader was recorded saying, “The people you tortured are going to be in eternity and heaven. You are very deceived by Satan. Your mind has been taken over, brainwashed and you have nothing but hate,” she said
The video shows an East Bay Regional Park District ranger approaching Slader and telling her she was being inappropriate. As Slader and Albeshari exchanged words over the cellphone camera, she reached over to him and struck him, district spokesman Carolyn Jones said.
After hitting him, Slader threw coffee on him, Jones said.
A park official got between the pair to stop the situation from escalating, she said. Slader was not arrested or cited, but a report was taken and sent to the Alameda County district attorney’s office, Jones said.
Police recommended that prosecutors file a misdemeanor battery charge against Slader, she said. It will be up to the district attorney’s office whether to file a hate-crime charge against Slader.
Slader did not respond to a request for comment.
“This kind of intolerance is totally unacceptable,” Jones said. “It’s just appalling on 50 different levels.”
Calling Sunday’s episode unusual, she said East Bay residents use the district’s 120,000-acres of park space daily for prayer, peace and solace, “especially in this day and age.”
Slader is still employed with the CDCR, but her actions are under review, department spokesman Luis Patino said.
“We expect all of our employees to treat everyone with dignity and respect both on and off the job,” he said in a statement.
Patino said the department can’t comment on the specifics of its investigation, “however, discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.”
Albeshari was born in Tennessee and moved to Yemen with his family as a child. He returned to the U.S. several years ago at the request of his father, who said “Son, go back to your country, that’s where you can find your future,” according to Albeshari.
Albeshari flew to North Carolina before moving to San Francisco.
Albeshari said he had never encountered any form of racism, especially against his religion, before Sunday’s incident.
He believes Slader’s actions were possibly fueled by the shooting rampage in San Bernardino and Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims.
Soon after Albeshari posted his video on Facebook, he said he was surprised to see an outpouring of support from strangers.
“It’s just overwhelming,” he said. “I think that’s what makes this nation great – tolerance and acceptance.”
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