California woman charged with hate crime after allegedly spitting on Asian diner

Karen Inman reportedly told the man to “go back to where you came from” as he sat eating lunch outdoors with a friend.

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mug shot of Karen Inman
Karen Inman
(City of Mountain View Police Department/AP)

A woman accused of spitting on an Asian American man and yelling an ethnic slur as he dined outdoors in Silicon Valley has been charged with a misdemeanor hate crime and battery, officials said Monday.

Karen Inman, 39, also told the man to “go back to where you came from” as he ate lunch with a friend on Feb. 13, Santa Clara County prosecutors said in a statement.

The case is the latest in a string of racially motivated harassment and assaults against Asian Americans since the coronavirus hit the U.S.

Inman first came to police’s attention the same day that the man was spat on, after officers received a report of a woman taking food and clothing from a store.

During the theft, the woman told the store owners she didn’t have to pay “because of their Asian ethnicity,” Mountain View police spokeswoman Katie Nelson said.

Officers saw Inman walking in the downtown area and held her for questioning, Nelson said. During that time, they learned she had been accused of spitting on the diner several steps from the market.

Police arrested Inman on Friday after bringing the case against her to prosecutors. They described her as a transient and prosecutors said her last known address was in Greenbrae, an unincorporated community in Marin County.

Inman was scheduled to be arraigned Monday afternoon. The two counts carry a maximum penalty of one and a half years in prison. The hate crime charge also comes with a mandatory community service requirement, Deputy District Attorney Sheryl Leung said.

She did not know whether Inman had retained a private attorney.

Inman was not charged in connection to the theft because the store owners declined to press charges, Leung said.

More than 3,000 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based reporting center for Asian American Pacific Islanders, and its partner advocacy groups since mid-March 2020. The encounters don’t often rise to the legal definition of a hate crime.

Still, police in several major cities saw a sharp uptick in Asian-targeted hate crimes between 2019 and 2020, according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, California State University, San Bernardino.

“Our community stands together against any hatred and racism against the Asian Pacific Islander community,” Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “It is ignorant. It is wrong. And when it is criminal — those who are charged will face the full power of my office to hold them accountable.”

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