A man has been charged with hate crimes after targeting South Asian women in a two-month robbery spree in the San Francisco Bay Area, prosecutors said on Monday.
Lathan Johnson, 37, of East Palo Alto, is accused of snatching necklaces from at least 14 women — aged 50 to 73 — and injuring some of them in the process.
The robberies, which began in June, took place in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. The total worth of the stolen necklaces is estimated to be around $35,000.
In one incident in Milpitas, Johnson allegedly asked a man and woman for directions before shoving the woman to the ground, punching the man and ripping a $1,000 necklace off the woman’s neck. She suffered a broken wrist while her husband received treatment for a possible broken nose.
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Milpitas police tied a suspect to a getaway car. Santa Clara police, along with U.S. Marshals, then arrested Johnson.
Almost all of the victims were wearing a sari, bindi or other types of ethnic attire when they were attacked. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen vowed to pursue convictions for anyone who attacks others due to their race or ethnicity.
“I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and treated with the utmost severity under our law. Santa Clara County’s precious diversity is our strength, our superpower – not a criminal opportunity,” Rosen said in a statement. Last year, the District Attorney’s Office charged a trio of men with hate crimes after they allegedly targeted more than 70 Asian women in another robbery spree. One of the suspects, Anthony Robinson, allegedly told police that the “age of the people [he] was taking things from did not matter as long as they were Asian.”
Johnson, who is already facing robbery charges, will be arraigned on hate crime charges at the Hall of Justice in San Jose on Tuesday. South Asian community leaders are expected to attend the hearing.
Featured Image via Pixabay (representation only)