Three men accused of targeting Asian people in a string of armed robberies in California’s Santa Clara County are now facing hate crime enhancements to their charges, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Tavita Lauti Fifita, 21, Curtis Eddie Charles Freeman, 19, and Siahola J’lan Tupouata, 18, were arrested on Monday night for the robberies that occurred in Palo Alto and Milpitas earlier in the day.
San Francisco police located them in a white 2020 Kia Sportage that was reported stolen out of Oakland in the morning, according to reports.
The robberies reportedly took place about half an hour from each other.
The first incident, which was reported at 6:35 p.m., occurred in the 1100 block of Trinity Lane and involved a family of four who had just returned home.
As the family — a father and a mother in their 30s, and two children both under 10 years old — got out of their car in their garage, two men approached them and demanded their phones and the mother’s purse. One of them pointed a gun at the father and threatened to kill him if they did not comply.
The robbers took the adult victims’ phones but left the purse. They fled in a vehicle driven by a third accomplice.
The second robbery, which was reported at 6:57 p.m., took place in the 800 block of Marshall Drive. The victim, a woman in her 40s, was also returning home when two men approached her, demanded her phone and held her at gunpoint.
The Milpitas robbery, which was reported at 7:28 p.m., occurred in the 1300 block of McCandless Drive. There, officers reported four suspects, one of whom brandished a firearm before taking the victim’s purse.
The Palo Alto victims provided a similar description of the robbers: All three were Black males, with the first two wearing ski masks and the getaway driver driving a white SUV.
The handgun wielded by one of them was black and silver in color.
Amid a multi-agency investigation, officers with the San Francisco Police Department located the getaway vehicle at around 9:14 p.m. and arrested Fifita, Freeman and Tupouata without incident.
A fourth person inside the vehicle was described as a 16-year-old male with an outstanding probation violation warrant out of Alameda County.
The trio of robbers, who are all from Oakland, were charged with three counts of robbery, one count of residential burglary, one count of possession of a stolen vehicle, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of conspiracy.
Tupouata was also charged with one count of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the first incident.
On Thursday, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced that hate crime enhancements have been added to the robbers’ charges.
“Those who prey on Asian people should know that both my office and our county are proudly diverse and united against hatred and violence,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement.
Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.
Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.
We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.