A man walked up to a couple who were out shopping and asked if they were lesbians. When they said yes, he beat them.
Another man attacked an elderly Vietnamese American woman as she stepped off a bus. He shouted racial slurs, kicked her in the chest and knocked her to the ground.
Those were two of the 40 reported hate crime incidents in Orange County in 2014, according to a report released Thursday, down from 48 such reports in 2013.
The Orange County Human Relations Commission said that African Americans, who make up less than 2% of the county’s more than 3.2 million residents, were the target of nearly 28% of the reported hate crimes last year: 11, the same total as the previous year. Since the commission began its accounting in 1991, blacks have been the most victimized group each year.
“It’s sad and unacceptable that some people are picked on because of the color of their skin. Folks want to be defined as that neighbor you say hello to at the market, rather than that person who is black or Jewish,” said Rusty Kennedy, who heads the commission.
Crimes against lesbians and gays rose to 8 in 2014 from 7 in 2013. Other targets included Jews, Asians, Latinos and members of the Muslim, Arab and Middle Eastern communities.
One of those incidents involved Sammy Captan, a manager at Jack’s Surfboards in Dana Point.
Captan recalled that one day last September, he spoke with a transient — who often parked overnight in the store’s lot — and asked him to move his Winnebago before the shop opened in the morning.
“He got pretty hostile and he started yelling: ‘This isn’t Saudi Arabia. I could do whatever I want. I don’t let Middle Easterners tell me what to do,’” Captan said.
The transient pulled a knife on Captan, who is of Lebanese descent, and his co-worker, a truck driver of Palestinian descent. “I told him: I don’t understand why this has to be about race. I’m just telling you our business rules.”
While the number of hate crimes reported in Orange County has dropped from a high of nearly 100 a decade ago, Kennedy said, he is troubled that acts of violence directed at individuals are on the rise compared with property crimes such as vandalism.
“The importance of doing this work is to push to make sure this is not a part of our future,” he said. “Everyone deserves to be safe.”