A 37-year-old man with a criminal record, named Lathan Johnson, reportedly attacked 14 older Hindu women in California and stole their necklaces during a two-month hate crime spree that began in June, say authorities.
According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Johnson, a Palo Alto resident, targeted Hindu women, who turned out to be between ages 50 and 73.
Almost all the victims were wearing a sari, bindi, or other types of ethnic attire when they were attacked. The majority of the incidents, which began in June, occurred in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.
He was accused of forcefully removing jewellery from the necks of the women before making off in a getaway vehicle. In one such instance, he pushed a woman to the ground before punching her husband in the face, ripping off her necklace, and jumping inside a getaway car. In another such case, a woman’s wrist was broken during the attack, the report added.
If convicted, Johnson will face a maximum jail term of 63 years. The next hearing in the case will take place on November 4. All of the stolen necklaces are estimated to be worth roughly USD 35,000.
Jeff Rosen, the district attorney for Santa Clara County, said he is committed to seeking punishment for anyone who attacked others because of their nationality or ethnicity.
Rosen said, “I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and dealt with the utmost severity under our law”. Rosen also stated that the treasured diversity of Santa Clara County is not a criminal opportunity but rather a strength and superpower.
“We are facing an uptick in hate crimes and online Hinduphobia. Seeing that we’re making progress in prosecuting to the fullest, sends a strong message,” said Samir Kalra, a member of the Hindu American Foundation.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office had earlier filed robbery and hate crime charges against a group of men in late 2021 after they allegedly preyed on Asian women while on a rampage of purse snatching. Those proceedings are still pending.