A South Korean national was facing hate crime allegations after he attacked a woman of the same ethnic background at a popular strip mall in Koreatown last week, authorities said.
Twenty-two-year-old Jae Won Yang was behind bars and facing a charge of attempted murder with a hate crime enhancement, said Los Angeles County District Attorney's spokesman Ricardo Santiago. Other enhancement allegations include using a hammer as a deadly weapon and inflicting great bodily injury, he said.
Yang has already pleaded not guilty.
Police say that about 6 p.m. on March 10, Yang approached a 24-year-old woman on the second-floor balcony of a strip mall at Olympic Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, asked if she was Korean, and pulled a hammer from a backpack and started attacking.
"The woman yelled for help and a security guard detained the suspect till the police arrived," according to a Los Angeles Police Department statement. "The female sustained numerous lacerations and contusions and was transported to a local hospital."
The suspect recently arrived to Los Angeles from his native Korea, police said. LAPD Capt. David Kowalski indicated the man, who had no known local address, speaks limited English and spoke to the woman in Korean.
"He asked her specifically ... 'Are you Korean,'" he told reporters yesterday afternoon. "She replied, 'Yes.' The hate crime was ... based on her being Korean."
When pressed by reporters on the topic, however, Kowalski said the hate-crime allegation also covered this as an alleged man-on-woman crime. "He had targeted her because she was female and she was Korean," he said.
Security video, below, captured the attack at a strip mall popular for its late-night Korean eateries, Hodori and Nok Won. The location is only a block from LAPD's Olympic Division station. Kowalski said cops were fast on the scene.
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The captain said, "This is an isolated incident," but he warned people not to walk around with their heads buried in their phones. "We try to stress ... people having awareness, especially when people are on the phone," he said. It appears the victim was looking at her phone when she was attacked.
The next court date for Yang was not immediately available. Bail was north of $1 million, Kowalski said.