The high-profile case of a person accused of committing an anti-Asian hate crime close to Oakland’s Chinatown will go to trial in ten days in Alameda County Superior Court docket. The defendant, 25-year-old James Lee Ramsey, is accused of hitting 62-year-old Carl Chan behind the pinnacle whereas uttering a racial slur.
The trial comes after practically a 12 months of national media attention to the issue of crime and violence in opposition to Asian individuals. Oakland Chinatown, the place robberies and assaults in opposition to seniors, store homeowners, and others have elevated, has been a focus. For some, Ramsey’s case underscores the necessity for extra police and surveillance cameras within the neighborhood, and harsher penalties for assailants.
Chan, an actual property agent and well-known neighborhood chief, is amongst those that have known as on metropolis officers to step up police presence in Chinatown. As president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, he has opposed budget reductions to OPD, supported plans to install surveillance cameras within the neighborhood, and just lately known as for Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency and ship the California Freeway Patrol to hold out site visitors enforcement on Oakland’s streets. On April 30, the day after he was attacked, Chan spoke at a pro-law enforcement rally in Chinatown, telling his supporters that his assailant used a racial slur.
However Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, whose workplace represents Ramsey, is talking out in opposition to what he believes are false fees in opposition to his shopper in a politicized ambiance.
“I’m involved with regard to how this case is getting used, and the rhetoric round these sorts of instances,” Woods instructed The Oaklandside in an interview. “Since this allegation occurred, there have been statements at press conferences the place it seems it’s getting used to advertise a sure agenda, to encourage extra police presence in our neighborhood.”
Whereas acknowledging the issue of violence dealing with Asian communities, and the seriousness of hate crimes, Woods stated that there is no such thing as a proof, in addition to a questionable declare from Chan, that Ramsey was motivated by racial bias. Woods believes the district legal professional has overcharged the case and stated that what Ramsey wants is psychological well being remedy, not a prolonged jail time period. Woods famous that Ramsey was recognized a few years in the past with critical psychological diseases.
The district legal professional’s workplace declined a request to be interviewed for this story, citing a coverage of not speaking about pending instances. Chan didn’t return a number of telephone calls and voicemail messages searching for an interview for this story.
However the polarizing questions on the heart of the case (Was the assault a hate crime or the results of a psychological well being disaster? Ought to the response be jail or psychological well being remedy?) have been on show throughout a preliminary listening to in June, which previewed arguments the prosecution and protection are more likely to make throughout subsequent week’s trial.
This report is predicated on the court docket information from that preliminary listening to, the Oakland Police Division’s report concerning the assault, which was obtained by The Oaklandside, and different public information and interviews.
Chan stated nothing to police at first about his attacker utilizing a racial slur
On April 29 at 3:45 p.m., Chan was strolling on eighth Avenue close to Broadway when somebody got here up from behind him and hit the again of his head. He fell to the bottom and scraped his palms and knees. Through the June preliminary listening to, he stated he briefly “blacked out” however had the presence of thoughts to rise up and take a photograph of the again aspect of the person who struck him as he was strolling away. Tips about how to reply to violent incidents have been recent in his head, he stated, as a result of he had just lately organized and attended a number of coaching classes on the subject.
Oakland police responded to the scene of the assault, and in line with the police report, Chan instructed the officers that the person known as him a “bitch” when he hit him. He confirmed the officers the photographs he took of the suspect: a Black man sporting an orange Giants t-shirt, blue denims, and a backpack.
Video footage from a physique digicam worn by one of many responding officers, Trevor Dagenhart, was performed through the court docket listening to. It confirmed Dagenhart asking Chan a number of occasions to explain every part that his attacker stated, and whether or not Chan knew why the person attacked him. Chan instructed Dagenhart a number of occasions that the person known as him a “bitch” however didn’t point out the usage of any racial slurs.
In lower than an hour, Oakland law enforcement officials noticed James Lee Ramsey, who’s Black, sporting the identical garments and carrying the identical backpack as the person within the photograph Chan took. They arrested him and Chan recognized Ramsey as his attacker.
Chan gave an interview to the San Francisco Chronicle later that day, saying he feared that he could have been singled out due to his frequent media appearances. The newspaper additionally quoted police Captain Bobby Hookfin, who raised the query of whether or not the assault was a hate crime. “We don’t know,” stated Hookfin, “However we have to discover out proper now.”
The following day, Chan attended a rally he helped manage in Chinatown opposing Senate Bill 82, which might revise state legislation to forestall prosecutors from charging non-violent thefts as violent felony robberies. The rally was certainly one of many Chan organized over the previous 12 months to attract consideration to the problem of violent crimes dedicated in opposition to Oakland’s Asian neighborhood, to oppose prison justice reforms, and to name for extra police in Chinatown. On the rally, he told reporters he was the sufferer of a hate crime and that his attacker used a racial slur.
Later that day, OPD investigator Roland Aguilar known as Chan for a followup interview and Chan instructed police for the primary time that Ramsey used a racial slur, in line with OPD’s report. Aguilar went to Chan’s workplace per week later and recorded an announcement from him. Chan stated that Ramsey yelled, “Fuck you Chinatown! Fuck you Chinaman!” simply earlier than hanging Chan behind the pinnacle, after which known as him a “bitch” and walked away.
On Might 3, District Lawyer Nancy O’Malley charged Ramsey with felony assault and a hate crime. Ramsey faces as much as eight years in state jail if discovered responsible of the assault. The hate crime cost would add as much as three extra years to his sentence, if he’s discovered responsible. The district legal professional’s determination to cost Ramsey with a felony and never a misdemeanor (which might lead to a lesser sentence of as much as one-year) was based mostly on the argument that the assault might have resulted in nice bodily damage as a result of Chan was struck within the head and fell to the bottom.
On June 24, the preliminary listening to was held for the case. In California, prison instances are first heard earlier than a choose who determines if there may be possible trigger to consider an individual dedicated the crimes they’re accused of, and whether or not the particular person ought to face trial. At these hearings, that are open to the general public, the prosecution and protection query witnesses, current proof, and make arguments.
Deputy District Lawyer Peter McGuinness requested Chan to explain how he felt through the assault.
“I used to be fascinated about survival, so I believe I used to be extra scared than feeling harm, despite the fact that my fingers bleeding, knees bleeding,” Chan instructed the court docket. “At that second, I used to be saying, am I going to make it?”
Requested why he felt that means, Chan cited the “many assaults” which have occurred in Chinatown and his work with “victims of hate crimes.”
Ramsey’s legal professional, Assistant Public Defender Michael Wilson, raised questions on why Chan’s account of the assault modified over 24 hours. Wilson performed the physique digicam video of Chan’s preliminary assertion to the police, then requested Chan why he didn’t inform the law enforcement officials that Ramsey used a racial slur.
“You didn’t say something to them concerning the phrase ‘Chinaman,’ appropriate?” Wilson requested.
“I in all probability didn’t,” Chan replied. “I don’t keep in mind, as a result of I knew that I used to be so shocked on the time, and I attempted to explain and reply as a lot as I might.”
The prosecutor, McGuinness, instructed the choose that it could be inconceivable for any crime sufferer to recollect each related element when speaking to the police, proper after being attacked.
“Don’t you suppose for him, although, particularly, given what he instructed us about himself, that that will be probably the most vital issues that will come out of his mouth?” the choose requested, noting Chan’s function locally as an outspoken activist who has known as consideration to different alleged hate crimes.
“I believe it’s onerous to second guess what a sufferer’s frame of mind is correct after one thing like this occurs once they get hit within the head to the purpose the place they get knocked to the bottom,” replied McGuinness.
Wilson, Ramsey’s legal professional, stated that Chan appeared “calm, cool, collected” throughout his preliminary interview recorded on a police physique digicam, and that he was “remaining admirably rational” whereas telling the officers what occurred.
“It’s inconceivable how that wouldn’t have been the very first thing that he feedback on below the circumstances,” Wilson stated concerning the alleged racial slur. Wilson instructed the choose he doesn’t suppose Chan lied, however that there was an “evolution” to his account over 24 hours.
“I’m not suggesting [there’s] proof of some nefarious self-serving motive, however merely, the virtually anticipated results of any individual who is targeted on a specific matter space, replaying occasions, speaking to press, speaking over, and over, and over once more,” stated Wilson.
The choose in the end determined that sufficient proof exists to have Ramsey stand trial for the assault and hate crime. Ramsey is at the moment being held in Santa Rita Jail awaiting trial subsequent week.
A protracted historical past of psychological sickness, together with an obvious episode on the day of the assault
Two hours after the assault, OPD investigators Aguilar and Dung Le-Nguyen interviewed Ramsey. One of many first issues Ramsey instructed the officers was that he was recognized with bipolar dysfunction and schizophrenia and that he takes medicine to deal with these situations. In accordance with the police report, Ramsey stated that he “feels extra clear headed with out his medicine and has been off the medicine for about a month.”
After the officers learn him his Miranda rights, Ramsey agreed to inform them concerning the assault. He stated he “noticed an older White or Asian male and ran into him as he was operating close to Broadway.” He admitted to hitting Chan together with his elbow, however claimed it was an accident, and added that he was listening to “mumbling” voices on the time.
He instructed the investigators that he’d had a “irritating day in San Francisco previous to arriving in Oakland,” as a result of he was observing “half-dog and half-humans and half-cats and half-humans.”
Aguilar wrote within the police report that “Ramsey acknowledged that he’s conscious of the hate towards Asians, however confidently acknowledged that he didn’t goal the sufferer as a result of he was Asian,” and that he wished to apologize to Chan.
Ramsey’s court docket information present that he has had extreme psychological well being issues since an early age and has struggled to get remedy. Rising up in Sacramento County, he lived in group properties for a time period. He later moved to the Bay Space and was dwelling together with his mom and older brother in East Oakland in 2014 when a household argument escalated and Ramsey threatened to hurt his mom. He was arrested and charged with making prison threats. His legal professional argued that the costs needs to be decreased from a felony to a misdemeanor as a result of he wasn’t taking medicine on the time and was having a psychotic episode, however a superior court docket choose upheld the felony rely. Ramsey pleaded responsible and was sentenced to 176 days in jail and 5 years probation.
In 2015, he was arrested for allegedly threatening an worker of a San Leandro Safeway with a field cutter within the parking zone. A scientific social employee wrote in a letter to the court docket that that they had carried out a psychological well being evaluation of Ramsey, discovering he’d skilled “neighborhood based mostly trauma, trauma whereas incarcerated,” and that he had a “historical past of head trauma that was untreated.” The social employee added that Ramsey was with out steady housing and was vulnerable to paranoia and delusions. She urged the court docket to permit him to hunt remedy.
The following 12 months, he was arrested and convicted of threatening a San Francisco Airport police officer and sentenced to 32 months in state jail. When he was paroled in 2018, Ramsey acquired into extra hassle. His parole agent wrote in a report that Ramsey’s “adjustment to parole has been under common,” as a result of he had didn’t test in together with his agent, left group properties he was required to reside at, and admitted to utilizing methamphetamine.
Nothing in Ramsey’s document signifies that he was ever beforehand accused of committing a hate crime.
However his psychological well being issues seem to have continued over the previous two years. In 2019, he left a bunch dwelling in opposition to the phrases of his parole and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested by BART police at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Station after stepping into an argument with a bunch of individuals. In accordance with court docket information, he has hung out in and round Oakland Chinatown, partly as a result of there are providers there that present shelter and counseling.
Ramsey was continuously admitted to John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro for emergency providers. In accordance with court docket information, he’d been admitted there no less than 5 to 10 occasions over the previous a number of years. On the evening of December 23, police have been known as to the hospital. Workers had simply discharged Ramsey, however he was refusing to depart and demanding that he be stored below an involuntary maintain and given remedy. He instructed hospital workers that he didn’t wish to exit into the world, and that in the event that they made him, he would “harm property.” He threw a plastic trash can at a workers member after which broken two automobiles within the parking zone by kicking them. Police later noticed Ramsey and arrested him and took him to Santa Rita Jail. In February, the district legal professional filed felony vandalism fees in opposition to him for kicking the automobiles.
The vandalism case can be nonetheless pending in opposition to Ramsey.
Violent assaults in Asian communities carry requires extra policing
Violent crime has increased in Oakland Chinatown for the reason that spring of 2020 and there have been quite a few assaults in opposition to Asians, together with Asian seniors, in Oakland, San Francisco, and past, that have drawn national attention to the problem of violence in opposition to Asian individuals. The Cease AAPI Hate coalition has documented over 9,000 hate incidents against Asian people since March 2020 across the U.S. Hate incidents embrace verbal harassment and different actions that don’t represent a criminal offense and might’t be prosecuted.
The California Lawyer Basic collects knowledge on hate crimes from all native police companies within the state and publishes yearly stories. In accordance with the newest report, there was a disturbing 67% increase in racially biased hate crimes within the state in 2020, and anti-Asian hate crimes roughly doubled in quantity, from 43 to 89. Lawyer Basic Rob Bonta made an appearance in Oakland Chinatown to announce the publication of the 2020 hate crime report.
Knowledge displaying hate crimes dedicated in opposition to Asians regionally, nevertheless, are much less conclusive. In accordance with the legal professional normal’s report, the Oakland Police Division didn’t document any anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. The Alameda County District Lawyer filed 10 hate crimes instances final 12 months, in line with the state Division of Justice, however the workplace was unable to say how most of the victims have been Asian.
One of the crucial surprising assaults in Oakland was the killing of 75-year-old Pak Ho throughout a violent theft in March within the Adams Level neighborhood. Some in Oakland, together with Chan, have stated Ho’s case and different assaults needs to be handled as anti-Asian hate crimes.
“Mainly nearly each single incident is in opposition to Asian neighborhood, or Asians, particularly our seniors,” Chan told NBC Bay Area. “So sure, I believe it needs to be labeled a ‘hate crime.’”
The district legal professional, nevertheless, discovered no proof that the assault was racially motivated and didn’t cost Teaunte Bailey, who’s Black and accused of killing Ho, with a hate crime. In March, Chan questioned the district attorney’s decision, in line with a KRON TV information report. In one other report, he expressed frustration with how hate crimes are outlined below the legislation.
Some incidents described initially within the media as racially motivated hate crimes have later been proven to be one thing totally different. In February, the video of a 91-year-old man being violently shoved to the bottom in Chinatown went viral and was widely described as an anti-Asian hate crime. Nevertheless it was later revealed that the sufferer within the video was Latino, not Asian, and the alleged assailant, Yahya Muslim, was not charged with a hate crime. Like Ramsey, Muslim, who can be Black, has an extended historical past of psychological well being issues, together with incidents throughout which he allegedly attacked or threatened random individuals on the road.
“Hate crimes are a problem, and we should take them critically,” Public Defender Brendon Woods instructed The Oaklandside. “However we’ve to make sure we’re additionally utilizing that time period and making these allegations appropriately.”
Woods stated he feels that Ramsey’s case has been wrongly charged as a hate crime to “justify extra legislation enforcement locally, together with the CHP.”
The general public defender pointed to knowledge displaying that most of the inmates in Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail, who’re disproportionately Black, undergo from psychological well being issues, and are not getting adequate care whereas incarcerated. If the upcoming trial of Ramsey for assaulting Chan needs to be about something, Woods stated it needs to be about getting his shopper into psychological well being remedy.
“This shopper needs to be given the chance to take part in behavioral well being court docket,” stated Woods, referring to a sort of court docket that emphasizes treating mentally in poor health individuals relatively than sending them to jail. “To ship somebody with psychological well being points to jail doesn’t make our neighborhood any safer. They’ll be launched in some unspecified time in the future in time. Their points won’t have been addressed and it’ll be an infinite cycle of hurt.”
Though District Lawyer O’Malley declined to speak concerning the Ramsey case for this report, she did converse at a press convention in July concerning the subject of violence dealing with Oakland’s Asian communities.
“These perpetrators are ruthless, and they’re aggressive, notably within the streets of Chinatown pondering they’re immune from being caught,” she stated in a press assertion. “We now have to place a cease to that. We should work collectively to determine, arrest and prosecute these perpetrators which might be notably preying on elder Asian People and on members of the AAPI neighborhood earlier than one other loss of life, damage, or trauma happens.”
O’Malley appeared together with Chan on the rally on July 26, where she said her workplace is ready to cost enhancements and hand down stricter punishments for individuals who commit violent acts.
Ramsey’s trial begins Aug. 30 in downtown Oakland’s René C. Davidson Courthouse.