Jon Nereim, 43, allegedly ranted about blacks and Muslims earlier this month before turning on three people, including a woman with a hijab, and pepper-spraying them in the face.
Prosecutors Tuesday charged a 43-year-old man with hate crimes after he allegedly went on an anti-Muslim tirade at a Bitter Lake convenience store in Seattle and then pepper-sprayed three people, including a woman wearing a hijab.
Jon Nereim was muttering things about not liking Muslims and blacks when he entered the 7-Eleven store on Oct. 7, according to charging documents.
One of his alleged victims, the woman who was wearing a head scarf, told police she tried to ignore the man.
As she left the store with a friend, Nereim allegedly told the woman to “go back to where you came from,” called her a “dangerous terrorist,” and at some point referred to her as a “Muslim (expletive) bitch.”
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She told him to have a good day, according to the documents.
As the woman was leaving in her car, he flipped her off. She got out of the car and asked the man “why he was saying these things to her,” she told police, according to the documents.
The woman’s two sons came to her side during the confrontation.
The man then pepper-sprayed her and one of her sons in the face. The spray also caught a nearby bystander, who told police he was approaching to try to help calm the situation, according to the documents.
Nereim, who police say was armed with two loaded handguns during the incident, allegedly told officers that the woman had an “angry kind of smile” and spoke with a bothersome “high pitch.” Police said Nereim was concerned about people talking behind his back. He allegedly told police he pepper-sprayed the woman because she lunged at him three times and had her fists raised.
In the charging documents, police said that witness statements did not support Nereim’s account, and that he “may have serious mental health issues as indicated by his paranoia and belief that those around him are talking about him behind his back.” He told police he was homeless.
Prosecutors charged Nereim with three counts of malicious harassment.
State law defines malicious harassment — a felony commonly referred to as a “hate crime” — as intentionally injuring, damaging property or threatening someone “because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical or sensory handicap.”
Reports of hate crimes have been steadily rising for years in Seattle, according to a tally kept by a Seattle police detective who investigates and tracks these cases.
A judge set bail at $75,000 for Nereim, who was booked in King County Jail on the day of the incident, and ordered him to surrender any firearms to the Seattle Police Department until the case is resolved.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the type of store where the alleged incident took place. It is a convenience store.