At least 14 Hindu women in the US state of California have been attacked by a man who also tore their jewelry in a spate of hate crimes, authorities said.
According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, 37-year-old Lathan Johnson is said to target elderly Hindu women and tear chains off their necks during a two-month crime wave that began in June.
Johnson, a resident of Palo Alto, stole necklaces from his victims before taking off in a getaway car. He also hurt the women in the process, especially those between the ages of 50 and 73, ABC7 News reported.
He was charged with forcibly removing jewelry from the women’s necks. In one such case, he reportedly pushed a woman to the ground before punching her husband in the face, tearing off her necklace and jumping into a getaway car. In another such case, a woman’s wrist was broken during the attack, the report added.
Johnson was detained by the Santa Clara Police Department and the US Marshal’s Office, although Milpitas Police were the first to link him to the crimes. He was connected to a getaway car by them.
If convicted, Johnson faces a maximum prison term of 63 years. The next hearing in the case will take place on November 4. All stolen necklaces have an estimated value of approximately $35,000.
The prosecutor’s office stated that almost all the victims were wearing a saree, bindi or other types of ethnic clothing when they were attacked. Most of the incidents, which started in June, occurred in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.
Jeff Rosen, the Santa Clara County District Attorney, said he is determined to seek punishment for anyone who has assaulted others because of their nationality or ethnicity.
Rosen said: “I say to our South Asian community that anyone who attacks and assaults you will be arrested under our law and treated with the utmost severity.” Rosen also stated that Santa Clara County’s cherished diversity is not a criminal opportunity, but rather a strength and superpower.
“We are facing an increase in hate crime and online Hindu phobia. Seeing progress in the prosecution is a strong signal,” said Samir Kalra, member of the Hindu American Foundation.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office had previously filed charges for theft and hate crimes against a group of men in late 2021 after they allegedly hunted Asian women while they were stealing purses. Those proceedings are still ongoing.
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