A group argued Friday that an alleged physical and verbal attack on a Muslim woman in a Meijer grocery store should be charged as a hate crime, but Kettering officials said the incident does not support an ethnic intimidation charge.
Members of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Ohio) had news conference Friday.
According to a police report, the incident occurred at 2:45 p.m. on Feb. 23, that is when CAIR-Ohio’s Cincinnati staff attorney, Sana Hassan, said a man physically and verbally attacked a Muslim woman in Meijer store on Wilmington Pike, yelling racial and ethnic slurs at her.
Hassan said the organization wants Kettering prosecutor Nolan Thomas to bring hate crime charges against the man, who was not named by CAIR-Ohio nor by the city.
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“The Kettering prosecutor has, so far, charged the man with simple assault but has refused to charge him with ethnic intimidation, the official label given to hate crimes under the law,” Hassan said. “To fail to charge this crime properly is to fail to uphold justice in this case.”
Kettering spokeswoman Stacy Schweikhart said the city “condemns all acts of violence and intimidation, particularly those done because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
The city wants “all its residents and visitors to be safe and secure in Kettering. The Kettering Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office take the pursuit of justice seriously and will investigate and bring all appropriate criminal charges in each case,” she said.
The city in its statement noted that Ohio’s hate crime statute is in Ohio Revised Code Section 2927.12.
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“Under it, a charge of ethnic intimidation can only be brought if the defendant committed aggravated menacing, menacing, criminal damaging, criminal mischief, or telecommunications harassment because of the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin. This is an assault case, which does not support a charge of ethnic intimidation under ORC 2927.12,” Schweikhart said. “Since the case is still pending, we will have no further comment beyond this statement.”
Any person who witnessed the incident is urged to come forward and contact the Kettering Police Department at 296-2555.
Hassan said, “According to Ohio law, a charge of aggravated assault must be brought before a charge of ethnic intimidation, hate charge can subsequently be brought. To fail to charge this crime properly is to fail to uphold justice in this case.”
The 25-year-old woman discussed in detail her experience in the Meijer on Wilmington Pike.
“While I was walking into the Meijer, there was a couple walking in behind me,” she recounted. “I heard a man say angrily to a woman with him, ‘Oh, look at her.’ So I knew immediately that he was referring to my head scarf.”
She said that the couple followed her to the milk section of the store, when she went hesitated a moment before opening the door to get a gallon of milk.
“I was going to open it and the man was standing in front of me and he just shoved me violently with his entire upper body,” she said. “I asked him what was he doing?”
She said the man swore at her and said, “You killed my friend in Iraq. Go back where you came from.’”
She added that the woman with him was yelling slurs, too, in the background.
“After it happened, I was too afraid to leave the grocery store on my own, so I called my brother to come, and he walked me back to my car,” she said.
The woman commended Kettering police for conducting a thorough investigation that involved using exterior surveillance cameras to identify the man charged with assault and commended Meijer officials for helping provide details to police. Meijer had no comment for this story.
“The crazy thing is that this man felt comfortable enough to do this in the middle of the day,” the woman said. “Everyone was just staring, but no one said anything until afterwards when I walked away and went down an aisle and started crying – that’s when somebody came to me and said ‘We saw what happened, and we are sorry you shouldn’t have gone through that.’”
She’s hoping the man is charged with a hate crime, but noted that she would be happy with an apology. She is a Kettering resident and feels a great deal of pride regarding the city and its residents, as well as, the country.
“I was born here in the United States, and when he yelled ‘go back to where you came from’, I yelled back him that ‘I was born here in the United States,’” she said.
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