Santa Clara police have arrested the man accused of tearing the necklaces off of women in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and other South Bay cities. Working with the U.S. Marshal’s Office, Santa Clara police officers arrested Lathan Johnson, 37, of East Palo Alto.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office says the Milpitas Police Department was the first to tie Johnson to the crimes because of the getaway car that he used. The District Attorney says the attacks are considered hate crimes.
Johnson is accused of a two-month robbery spree in which he targeted at least 14 South Asian women between the ages of 50 and 73. In each of the incidents, Johnson reportedly tore the necklaces off of their necks and then took off in a getaway car. In some cases, the robberies resulted in injuries.
Johnson was arraigned earlier this week. He faces prison time if convicted.
“I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and treated with the utmost severity under our law,” District Attorney Rosen said. “Santa Clara County’s precious diversity is our strength, our superpower – not a criminal opportunity.”
The spree began in June of this year. Over the next weeks, South Asian women – almost always wearing a sari, bindi, or other types of ethnic attire were targeted in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.
In one case, the victim was walking with her husband down a Milpitas street when Johnson approached and asked for directions. The defendant then walked up behind them and pushed the woman to the ground and punched her husband in the face and then pushed him to the ground. He ripped a thousand-dollar necklace off the woman’s neck and jumped into a car and sped away. The woman suffered a broken wrist, and her husband was treated for a possible broken nose.
The estimated worth of all the stolen necklaces is about $35,000.
Late last year, the Santa Clara DA’s Office charged a group of men with hate crimes and robbery for targeting Asian women during a spree of purse snatchings. Those cases are pending.