A 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of committing an "anti-Asian hate crime" after she was accused of having spat on a man and used an ethnic slur, officials in Northern California said.
The woman, Karen Inman, was arrested Friday during an attempted theft of sweets from a Smart & Final grocery store, said police in Mountain View, about 15 miles west of San Jose. Inman was charged with petty theft, robbery and two counts of violation of civil rights by force or threat because of two incidents alleged to have occurred Feb. 13.
Mountain View police alleged in a statement that Inman stole items from a store that day and told the business' staff members that she did not need to pay for them because of the staff's Asian ethnicity,
Police said they received another report on the same day alleging that a woman matching Inman's description had hurled racist language and spat at patrons who were eating lunch, one of them of Asian descent.
Police said they interviewed Inman, who is transient, on Feb. 13 and released her because officers had not witnessed either incident and because both of the victims did not "desire prosecution."
"However, MVPD has a policy to proactively investigate any hate crimes so officers continued with the investigation and we brought the case to the District Attorney's Office for review," the statement said. "Officials at the District Attorney's Office reviewed our case, and they established that hate crime charges could be brought against Inman."
In a news release announcing the charges, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office accused Inman of having used a racial slur and told the man she is charged with spitting on to go back to "where you came from."
"She was ultimately arrested on Friday because of the candy theft," Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Leung said Monday. "But what we charged was the spitting in the middle of a pandemic targeting someone who was just out enjoying his lunch."
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office said in the news release that an increase in attacks against the Asian American Pacific Islander community was being "driven in part by false political rhetoric blaming Asian-Americans" for the coronavirus pandemic.