A 39-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of committing an “anti-Asian hate crime” after she allegedly spat on a man and used an ethnic slur, officials in Northern California say.
Karen Inman was arrested on March 5 during an attempted theft of sweets from a Smart & Final grocery store, said police in Mountain View, a Bay Area city 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 alleged incidents on Feb. 13.
On that date, Inman allegedly stole items from a store and told the business’ staff that she did not need to pay for them because of the staff’s Asian ethnicity, according to a statement from the Mountain View Police Department.
Police said they received another report on the same date saying 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 interviewed Inman, who is transient, on Feb. 13, but released her because officers had not witnessed either alleged crime 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 press release announcing the charges, the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office said Inman allegedly told the man she spat on to go back to “where you came from” and used a racial slur.
“She was ultimately arrested on Friday because of the candy theft,” Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Leung told NBC News on 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 press release that an increase in attacks against the Asian-American Pacific Islander community was “driven in part by false political rhetoric blaming Asian-Americans” for the coronavirus pandemic.