The Washington Post

Md. man convicted of hate crime

A Montgomery County man accused of slashing the tires of his Hispanic neighbors was convicted of a hate crime and vandalism Thursday. Steven Armstrong, 53, was ordered held in jail pending his sentencing on Sept. 30.

Police investigated the case last year in a neighborhood just east of downtown Wheaton. Victims were initially reluctant to come forward, which is not uncommon in the county’s Hispanic neighborhoods where residents fear immigration consequences.

But detectives eventually found more than 10 victims, according to prosecutors. One of them said he saw Armstrong crouched near a car and asked Armstrong what he was doing. “I hate you Spanish people! I hate you all!” he responded, according to police.

Montgomery police and prosecutors have long said they will not ask the immigration status of victims, witnesses and nonviolent offenders.

“We continue to urge anyone who believes they have been the victim of a crime to contact police,” Montgomery State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Thursday. “We absolutely will not tolerate crimes being committed against residents because of their ethnicity.”

Armstrong also had been suspected of possibly beheading a duck . That allegation did not come up during the trial, according to prosecutors.

Neither Armstrong nor his attorney, John Bell, could be reached late Thursday for comment.

Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County. He arrived at the paper in 2005, after reporting stops at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun and Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He is the author of The Yoga Store Murder.

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