King County prosecutors charged a 51-year-old man with a hate crime Friday, accusing him of screaming profanities and throwing items at cars in two separate incidents last week targeting Asian women and children.
Seattle police arrested Christopher Hamner on Thursday in Georgetown, according to an item posted on the Police Department’s online blotter, which notes a bias detective continues to investigate similar incidents in South Seattle.
Hamner remains jailed in lieu of $75,000, jail records show. Court records do not yet indicate which lawyer is representing him. Hamner, whose last known address is in SeaTac, does not appear to have any criminal convictions.
The allegations against Hamner are part of the rise in anti-Asian bias reported locally and nationally. The FBI warned in March 2020 of a possible surge in hate crimes directed against Asian communities, which have been scapegoated for the spread of the coronavirus.
“A new report by Stop AAPI Hate documented nearly 3,800 hate incidents nationwide during the past 12 months,” a dozen elected city officials of Asian descent from Shoreline to SeaTac wrote in a letter to the editor published Monday in The Seattle Times. “Anti-Asian hate crime rose 33% from 2019 to 2020 in Seattle and rose in the aggregate 149% during the same period in 16 of this country’s largest cities [including Seattle].”
On March 16, a woman driving with her two children, ages 10 and 5, in Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood, was waiting at a red light on South Graham Street when she saw a man pull into a store’s parking lot, then aggressively stalk toward her vehicle, say the charges against Hamner. He screamed expletives while referencing her Asian heritage and yelled for her to “Get out! Get out!” while punching his fists together and chucking items from his pockets at her vehicle, say the charges.
The woman told her 10-year-old daughter to try to get a video of the man; the light changed and the woman turned left onto Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and pulled into a business to call 911 but left after 15 minutes because she didn’t feel safe, according to the charges.
Both her children were “frightened and disoriented” by the encounter with the stranger, the charges say.
The woman posted about the incident on social media and the husband of one of her friends identified Hamner as a possible suspect — and he sent the woman a photo he took of Hamner, who works at the Veterans Affairs hospital, say the charges. He was wearing the same shoes in a photo taken at the time of the incident, the photo sent by her friend’s husband and photos the woman found on Hamner’s social media account, according to the charges.
The woman later provided the photos to a Seattle police detective who compared them to Hamner’s driver’s license photo and determined the photos appeared to be of the same person, the charges say.
Three days after the first incident, the charges say two women driving together in the 4700 block of Beacon Avenue South noticed a driver to the right of their vehicle look back and stare at them. As the female driver approached South Columbia Street, she saw the other driver had stopped ahead of her; as she moved to pass the vehicle, the other driver cut her off and stopped in the middle of the street, blocking all southbound traffic.
The man opened his door and yelled an expletive and the word “Asian,” say the charges.
The woman immediately pulled into a parking space and looked back at the male driver, who by then had gotten out of his car and was charging toward the woman’s vehicle, according to the charges. The women rolled up the windows so she couldn’t hear what he was saying but they saw him throw a plastic item at the car before they drove away.
The woman’s car is equipped with a dashboard camera that captured the license plate of the other car, which is registered to Hamner, the charges say. The police detective investigating the case reviewed the video and determined the women’s assailant “was clearly Hamner,” according to the charges.
The women told the detective they were afraid they were in imminent danger of being assaulted, say the charges.