A man who launched a racist tirade against Hmong American shoppers at a grocery store in Wisconsin has been charged with disorderly conduct as a hate crime.
Robert E. Shrote, 57, verbally attacked the pair of shoppers at the Save A Lot store in Stevens Point on May 12, convinced that they were Chinese people “poisoning us” with the coronavirus.
The shoppers, a man and a woman, were wearing face masks at the time of the incident.
Shrote, who was drunk, called the pair “Chinese mother(expletive),” according to the criminal complaint filed against him.
The woman almost cried during the encounter and left the store without shopping.
Witnesses confirmed that Shrote made racist comments about Asians and sought to provoke a response from the pair, according to the Stevens Point Journal.
An employee tried to prevent the situation from escalating, while a witness who feared a brawl offered to take Shrote home.
A witness reportedly recalled Shrote mentioning the “Chinese” and “coronavirus” in his tirade.
Shrote later tested with a .20 blood alcohol content, WSAW reported.
Speaking to the police, he argued that recent concerns regarding the coronavirus caused him to “flip” when he saw the Asian customers.
Disorderly conduct normally carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in prison and a fine of $1,000, but because Shrote’s case is a hate crime, he can spend up to a year in jail and pay as much as $10,000.
The 57-year-old is currently a free man on a $150 bond. He will first appear at the Portage County Circuit Court on July 13.
Feature Images via Portage County Circuit Court (left) and WAOW (right; screenshot)