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California Man Charged With Hate Crimes After Targeting South Asian Women in Necklace Robbery Spree

California Man Charged With Hate Crimes After Targeting South Asian Women in Necklace Robbery Spree

  • In several of the instances, Lathan Johnson, 37, of Palo Alto, injured the victims, who ranged in age from 50-73.

A California man, who allegedly targeted, attacked and robbed 14 South Asian women, has been charged with robbery and hate crimes, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced today (Oct. 3). 

Lathan Johnson, 37, of Palo Alto, ripped necklaces from the necks of the victims and sped away in a car. In several of the robberies, he injured the women, who ranged in age from 50-73. The estimated worth of all the stolen necklaces is about $35,000, the DA’s office said.

The Santa Clara Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Office apprehended Johnson, but the Milpitas Police Department was the first agency to tie him to the crimes, allegedly connecting him to a getaway car.

The spree began in June of this year. Over the next weeks, South Asian women – almost always wearing a sari, bindi, or other types of ethnic attire, were targeted in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, the press release said. 

In one case, the victim was walking with her husband down a Milpitas street when Johnson approached and asked for directions. He then walked up behind them and pushed the woman to the ground and punched her husband in the face and then pushed him to the ground. He ripped a thousand-dollar necklace off the woman’s neck and jumped into a car and sped away. The woman suffered a broken wrist, and her husband was treated for a possible broken nose.

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Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said he will pursue convictions of anyone who attacks people on the basis of their race or ethnicity. “I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and treated with the utmost severity under our law. Santa Clara County’s precious diversity is our strength, our superpower – not a criminal opportunity,” he said in the press statement.

Johnson will be arraigned on the hate crime charges tomorrow (Oct. 4) at 9 a.m. in San Jose. He faces prison time if convicted. The DA and South Asian community leaders will attend the hearing. 

Late last year, the Santa Clara DA’s Office charged a group of men with hate crimes and robbery for targeting Asian women during a spree of purse snatchings. Those cases are pending.

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