“The man later told police Koreans in the area were trying to control him,” the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release on Monday.
On Monday, prosecutors charged Roger Janke, 28, of Fullerton, Calif., with a felony hate crime, along with other counts for vandalism and violating civil rights. Janke faces a maximum sentence of six years in state prison and six months in county jail.
Janke, who is being held at Theo Lacy Facility in Orange, Calif., on bail of $51,500, has pleaded not guilty. A lawyer for Janke was not listed in court records.
“I refuse to tolerate hate in Orange County,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer (R) said in a news release. “Our commitment to continuing to prosecute hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law is sending a strong message to all the haters out there — there is no room for hate here — or anywhere.”
Spitzer joins other prosecutors across the country who are using hate-crime statutes in an attempt to curb a rise in anti-Asian attacks. Last week, Manhattan authorities filed three hate-crime charges against a 38-year-old man who allegedly stomped an Asian American woman, 65. In early March, prosecutors filed hate-crime charges against a 39-year-old woman accused of spitting on an Asian American man while he was eating lunch outside.
The attack in Orange County happened on March 31 as the woman, who hasn’t been named, drove along a four-lane road in a residential area in Fullerton.
The woman called police from a nearby park and they swiftly arrested Janke.
Prosecutors later added a felony hate-crime enhancement to his charges, citing the woman’s race as the motivation behind the attack.
“A woman and her child should be able to drive down the street without worrying about being attacked because of the color of their skin,” Spitzer said.
There have been numerous assaults against Asian Americans in California during the pandemic, including many in the Bay Area in recent months. Orange County has also seen a spike in cases, according to local authorities. At a news conference last month, Spitzer said there have been more hate crimes cases filed in the past two years than in previous decades.
Southern California is already on edge this week after an Asian American woman was stabbed to death while walking her dog over the weekend in Riverside, about 40 miles east of Fullerton, although police say they don’t suspect race was a motive in that case.
Janke’s next court appearance at Orange County Municipal Court is scheduled for April 16.