Federal investigators determined that the man who stabbed an Asian American family out shopping at a Sam’s Club last month committed a hate crime fueled by coronavirus panic, according to an FBI report obtained by ABC News.
Three members of a family were stabbed in Midland, Texas, on March 14, including two children ages 2 and 6.
Suspect Jose Gomez, 19, admitted to police that “he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus,” according to the document. A Sam’s Club employee named Zach Owen was stabbed in the leg as he tried to stop the attack.
Gomez is being held on several bonds totalling $1 million as federal investigators pursue the case.
The World Health Organisation had declared the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, a pandemic three days earlier. Because the virus is believed to have originated in China, Asian Americans across the country have reported being harassed in public over baseless accusations that they personally had something to do with the crisis.
The FBI said it has already started to see a surge in coronavirus-related hate crimes across the country, and warned that the US will only see more as the coronavirus spreads, according to the ABC News report.
“The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations,” the agency said.
President Donald Trump has certainly not helped to discourage the connection, refusing to apologise for calling COVID-19 by the derogatory “China virus” nickname. Instead, he has issued tweets discouraging hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The FBI report made no mention of Trump or any other specific official, according to ABC News.