District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office announced today that it filed seven felony charges against 20-year-old O’sean Garcia, who is accused of robbery and attempted robbery as well as hate crimes against several Asian women in incidents dating back to March.
The charges, which were announced in a press release this morning, are all accompanied by allegations of hate crimes. The women were all Asian, and in several cases monolingual Cantonese speakers, the DA’s press release said.
“We do not tolerate hate or violence in San Francisco, and those who commit violence or target our AAPI community members will be held accountable,” said District Attorney Boudin. “We know the pain that crimes like this can cause to the broader community; these attacks against Asian women occurred during a time when many in the AAPI community across the nation have felt especially vulnerable. We condemn these crimes and we will continue to work to protect the AAPI community and keep everyone safe.”
Garcia, who is an Oakland resident, was scheduled to appear in court this afternoon, a week after he was arrested in connection to a robbery on Sept. 21. The District Attorney’s office is seeking Garcia’s detention. A spokesperson for the DA could not confirm whether the incidents all took place in San Francisco, or whether Garcia and the victims were San Francisco residents.
Garcia allegedly stole the 27-year-old Asian victim’s backpack as she was getting out of her car. Police were able to track the victim’s laptop to locate and arrest Garcia in Oakland. He was booked into the San Francisco county jail the next morning, on Sept. 22.
Although Boudin said the seven incidents Garcia is being charged with were all separate, and several of the robberies were committed in spurts: Three occurred within the span of just a couple hours on March 13, with a red sedan used as the getaway car. On Aug. 5, Garcia was allegedly involved in two robberies just ten minutes apart.
On March 13, Garcia and an accomplice allegedly stole the backpack of a 40-year-old Cantonese speaker, but in the two other incidents that evening, the victims fought the robber off. Garcia was allegedly pepper-sprayed in the face by an 18-year-old victim, and a 29-year-old victim held onto her bag tightly enough that he gave up.
A week later, on March 20, a 52-year-old monolingual Cantonese-speaking woman, was walking around 5:45 p.m. when two males allegedly grabbed her purse. The victim refused to let go, and the woman was pushed to the ground and dragged until the robbers were able to take the bag and leave.
On Aug. 5, a 36 year-old Asian monolingual Cantonese speaker was on her own driveway when two suspects allegedly tried to take her backpack. Her screaming alerted her mother to come outside and shout at the suspects, who ran away without the bag. Just minutes later, at 10:30 a.m., a 61-year-old Asian victim on her way home had her bag stolen from her hands.
Reported robberies in San Francisco are down from previous years, according to the Police Department’s Crime Dashboard: 1,642 robberies have been reported so far in 2021, compared to 1,766 at this point in 2020, and a much higher 2,158 at this point in 2019.
However, hate crimes have been up since last year, and don’t seem to be going away.
According to a report from California Attorney General Rob Bonta this summer, the state saw a 107% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, a shift that has been attributed by many to the onset of the pandemic.
And, a year and a half into the pandemic, there’s no sign of a decline: In a report covering March, 2020, through June, 2021, the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate received 4,548 reports of hate crimes in 2020, versus 4,533 in 2021 — nearly 2,500 of the incidents were reported between April and June of this year.
If you have witnessed or experienced a hate crime, you can call the San Francisco District Attorney’s Hate Crime hotline at (628) 652-4311.
Update: This article was updated with more information from the SFPD about O’Sean Garcia.