Eight Asian-owned businesses in San Jose, CA, and Milpitas, CA found their windows destroyed after a man allegedly smashed them during a vandalism spree early on Wednesday morning.
The establishments, located in San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood, are reportedly open for takeout during the shelter-in-place order, which requires people to stay at home and leave only for essential errands.
Surveillance video from Lee’s Sandwiches in #SanJose shows vandal smashing store windows but taking nothing. Owner tells me, he knows of at least 7 businesses vandalized this morning- all Asian-owned. He believes it’s the same vandal, same M.O., same truck. #ktvu 11p pic.twitter.com/3f3o2d2ppA
— Azenith Smith (@AzenithKTVU) April 23, 2020
The affected businesses include Tastea, Happy Lemon, Pho Y Lundy, 7 Leaves Café, and four branches of Lee’s Sandwiches.
“It was heartbreaking because we are trying to operate like a normal day-to-day business and this creates concerns for our employees,” 7 Leaves owner Vinh Pham told KTVU.
Pham was alerted about the situation around 5:50 a.m. Despite the damages, his café offers free drinks for first responders and health workers until today.
Lee’s Sandwiches owner Thang Le echoed similar concerns. No window in any of his four branches was spared, however, he does not think it was a hate crime.
“I think it might be more of an opportunity crime,” Le told KRON 4. “Somehow somebody is benefiting in regard to what’s been going on with COVID-19 and certain businesses being open and others are closed.”
Pictures of the businesses’ smashed windows have since circulated on Reddit. Surveillance cameras from Lee’s Sandwiches show the vandal using a crowbar to smash the windows before leaving the premises in a pick-up truck.
“What sort of monster would spend all that time traversing this much distance through the city to smash out windows of our local businesses?” one Reddit user commented.
Another chimed in, “Racism is the obvious answer.”
“If the guy was racist or angry at Asians in general, he would have vandalized multiple businesses in Asian strip malls,” one speculated.
“Why waste time driving all over the county to bust a few windows when he could have done 10 times the damage in half the time? This guy has a particular anger, probably against the Lee’s sandwich owner. The other stores may have been mistaken for being owned by Lee’s guy.”
District 4 councilmember Lan Diep, who is Vietnamese, felt “personally attacked” in incidents, but he was careful about calling them hate crimes.
“I don’t think we should be saying that yet. I think it may well reveal itself to be but until we have enough evidence to establish the intent behind these actions, we shouldn’t say that,” Diep said, according to KRON 4. “I think there is enough hate going on in the United States and the Bay Area right now as a result of COVID-19 against Asian Americans that we have plenty to direct our anger towards.”
A number of Vietnamese-owned businesses across San José were vandalized early this morning. Our police department is investigating. Here is my statement on the matter. pic.twitter.com/pJxn6QYJvQ
— Councilor Lan Diep (@SanJoseD4) April 23, 2020
Le said that the businesses suffered damages amounting to about $10,000 each. He also confirmed that all establishments saw the same vandal with the same truck.
“This guy needs to get caught,” Le told KTVU. “He’s wasting everyone’s time and money right now.”