Man charged with hate crimes for targeting South Asian women in necklace robbery spree



An East Palo man, Lathan Johnson, 37, has been charged with hate crimes and robberies after a two-month spree during which he targeted at least 14 South Asian women, tore necklaces off their necks, and sped away in a getaway car.

In several of the brazen robberies this year Johnson injured the women, who ranged in age from 50-73. The Santa Clara Police Department and the US Marshal’s Office apprehended Johnson, but the first agency to tie him to the crimes was the Milpitas Police Department. They were able to connect him to a getaway car.

Johnson who was scheduled to be arraigned on October 4 morning failed to appear before the court. He said that he was feeling unwell. His arraignment has been rescheduled to November 4. If convicted, Johnson faces prison time. The DA and South Asian community leaders will attend the hearing.

“I say to our South Asian community that anyone who targets and attacks you will be arrested and treated with the utmost severity under our law,” Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen said. “Santa Clara County’s precious diversity is our strength, our superpower – not a criminal opportunity.”

The necklace-snatching spree began in June of this year. Over the next weeks, South Asian women – almost always wearing a sari, bindi, or other types of ethnic attire were targeted in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara.

In one case, the victim was walking with her husband down a Milpitas street when Johnson approached and asked for directions. The defendant then walked up behind them and pushed the woman to the ground and punched her husband in the face and then pushed him to the ground. He ripped a thousand-dollar necklace off the woman’s neck and jumped into a car and sped away. The woman suffered a broken wrist, and her husband was treated for a possible broken nose.

The estimated worth of all the stolen necklaces is about $35,000. Late last year, the Santa Clara DA’s Office charged a group of men with hate crimes and robbery for targeting Asian women during a spree of purse snatchings. Those cases are pending.


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