The FBI in San Francisco is implementing new strategies to combat hate crimes after two Asian women were stabbed at a bus stop in the city earlier this week.
The San Francisco division of the agency announced on Thursday that it planned to ramp up investigative resources, improve coordination with law enforcement partners, increase community outreach and expand public awareness around hate crimes.
“FBI San Francisco is surging our resources to combat hate crimes, and we will use all authority granted to us by federal law to investigate civil rights violations,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Sid Patel said in a statement.
“I urge members of our community to report any hate incidents to local or federal law enforcement so we can bring offenders to justice.”
The San Francisco division of the FBI said in a news release that it was training more special agents to investigate hate crimes and civil rights abuses, and that those agents would work with community groups to build trust and enhance reporting of such incidents.
FBI special agents are also training state, local and tribal law enforcement partners on federal hate crime statutes and encouraging them to refer potential such cases to the FBI, the agency said.
The strategies come after a horrifying recent assault
The announcement from FBI San Francisco follows a horrific assault in the city’s downtown area earlier this week — the latest incident in a nationwide wave of attacks targeting Asian Americans.
Two Asian women, ages 84 and 63, were stabbed as they waited for a bus on Tuesday afternoon and had to be hospitalized, according to the San Francisco Police Department.
One woman’s lung was punctured by the knife and had to undergo extensive surgery, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said in a news release on Thursday. A knife was removed from the other woman at the hospital.
“The police, bystanders, responding medics, surgeons, and attending staff at San Francisco General Hospital are to be commended for their life-saving responses,” the district attorney’s office said. “The case is also a reminder of the need to improve language access throughout the investigative and legal process.”
Patrick Thompson, 54, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse in connection with the San Francisco bus stop incident, according to the district attorney’s office.
The investigation is ongoing and authorities have not yet ruled it a hate crime.
Deputy Public Defender Eric Fleischaker, who is representing Thompson, said his client “was suffering from a mental health crisis and was psychiatrically hospitalized immediate after this incident.”
“This is not a hate crime. Even in our early evaluation of this incident, nothing indicates that this was racially-motivated, and Mr. Thompson has not been charged with a hate crime,” Fleischaker said.
Thompson had been known to authorities before this latest incident.
A judge had issued an arrest warrant for him in April 2020 for missing court and during that arrest, he was in possession of a drug pipe, the district attorney’s office said.
Police had also arrested Thompson in separate cases in 2017. During proceedings, a judge found him incompetent to stand trial and he was sent to a state hospital, according to the district attorney’s office. When he returned, the news release said, his lawyer at the time requested that his case be diverted in favor of court-monitored mental health treatment.
Thompson complied with the mental health diversion program for nearly two years and was eventually released from it, the district attorney’s office said.
“Mr. Thompson has suffered from mental health issues his entire adult life, and is someone who thrives when given proper care — as he did for the nearly two years that he was part of the rigorous, court-mandated Mental Health Diversion program, where he was able to live independently without incident and eagerly participate in his own healing,” Fleischaker said in a statement.
“Sadly, many life-saving social services have not been available during the COVID crisis, and the lack of consistent care led to this situation, which is tragic for all involved,” the attorney said.
“What happened is a devastating tragedy, and we will use the full force of our office’s resources to prosecute this case,” the district attorney’s office said in a news release.
“We also need to work hard to stop the next crime from happening, and that involves prevention and treatment.”
Anti-Asian violence is on the rise
Anti-Asian violence is continuing to increase nationally, according to a center tracking reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans.
There were at least 2,410 anti-Asian hate incidents in the first three months of this year, according to a report released by Stop AAPI Hate on Thursday. That’s more than half the number of incidents that took place last year and were reported to the group.
Still, the true scope of the problem is difficult to quantify due to poor data collection and because some victims are hesitant to report crimes.
The Justice Department and FBI are required by a 1990 federal law called the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to publish an annual report on hate crime statistics. While the report is considered the most comprehensive look at hate crime across the country, law enforcement agencies are not required to submit their data. Many agencies do not, creating an incomplete nationwide data set.
Authorities in New York also recently took steps to better fight hate crimes.
The office for the acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York announced last month it would double the size of its Civil Rights Section, which is part of the agency’s Criminal Division. Doing so would allocate more resources toward examining potential hate crimes, the office said.
“The spiking number of hate crimes directed at Asian Americans in this District and throughout the country runs contrary to deeply-held American values of fairness, respect and equal treatment for all without regard to ethnic origin,” acting US attorney Mark Lesko said in a statement.
“The additional resources allocated to the Civil Rights Section reflect the commitment of this Office and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners to upholding these important and enduring values, which categorically reject hate, intolerance and the violence they spawn.”