East Palo Alto resident Lathan Johnson, 37, is being held in custody without bail for targeting at least 14 Hindu women during an alleged robbery spree lasting two months, according to ABC7 News.
Johnson has been accused of targeting Hindu women wearing traditional attire, stealing their gold jewelry and then driving away, NBC Bay Area reports.
“It’s very clear that these women were targeted for no other reason than for wearing bindis, saris and were a lot of times around temples of Indian or Hindu sites,” Samir Kalra of the Hindu American Foundation said to NBC Bay Area.
According to OpIndia, the incidents began in June, and the majority of them happened in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen told ABC7 that Johnson allegedly ripped off the jewelry, dragged the victims down the street, broke their wrists and then sometimes beat up the victim’s husband. In total, all of the stolen necklaces are estimated to be worth $35,000, according to OpIndia.
This spree is especially concerning for the Hindu community as gold jewelry is a sacred part of Hindu culture. The Hindu American Foundation told NBC that the majority of gold jewelry being worn has cultural or religious significance.
“We are facing an uptick in hate crimes and online Hindu-phobia. Seeing that we’re making progress in prosecuting to the fullest sends a strong message,” Kalra said to ABC7 News.
According to ABC7, Johnson faces a maximum penalty of 63 years in jail with the next court date set for Nov. 4.
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