While hate crimes usually involve attacks of some kind on minorities, prosecutors say they have no hesitation pressing charges if the case goes the other way.
That's what happened Sunday night in Seattle when a black man accosted a white man at gunpoint near Seattle's Green Lake Community Center, demanding he apologize "for all the things white people did to black people," according to prosecutors.
"Obviously, the victim of this assault was terrified. He thought he could potentially be shot," Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff from the King County Prosecutors Office told KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show.
The prosecutor's office has charged Chikwanha E. Nyashanu, 35, with malicious harassment and second-degree assault for the incident. A judge ordered Nyashanu held on $100,000 bail.
Goodhew said, the victim truly felt that he was randomly selected and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"On its face, the evidence seems to show the motivation for singling this particular victim out was his racial identity," Goodhew said.
Dori isn't a fan of hate crime laws in general, saying "I think people should be charged for an action, not a thought." But he told Goodhew he's glad to see the law applied equally, regardless of race.
Still, Goodhew admitted it's an anomaly.
"This does happen every once in awhile and he [the senior prosecutor overseeing bias crimes] applies the statute in the same way. He applies the statutes in the same way he would in the reverse situation," explained Goodhew.
As for motivation, Goodhew said Nyashanu hasn't given a good reason for the incident.
"They certainly attempted to try to figure out what the motivation here was and they simply just didn't get anything from him."
Luckily, no one was hurt in the incident. Police say Nyashanu was carrying "multiple rounds of ammunition" in his backpack along with his loaded handgun.
Nyashanu faces up to just over two years in prison if convicted.
RCW 9A.36.080: Malicious harassment-Definition and criminal penalty.
(1) A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:
(a) Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;
(b) Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person; or
(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property. The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances. Read more.
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