Mountain View police arrested a 39-year-old Greenbrae woman Friday (March 5) after she allegedly yelled racial epithets while stealing from a store in downtown Mountain View last month, according to a police press release.
Karen Marie Inman was arrested around 11 a.m. March 5 as she allegedly attempted to steal candy and ice cream from a Smart and Final in the 100 block of East El Camino Real. She had previously been identified as a suspect in a theft from a store in downtown Mountain View in February and a subsequent battery at a downtown restaurant in which she allegedly made comments about the victims' ethnicity, police said.
On Feb. 13, officers were called to a market in the 200 block of Castro Street on reports that a woman had just taken food and clothing from the store and refused to pay for them. During the theft, the woman told the victims she didn't have to pay because of their Asian ethnicity, according to police.
A few minutes later, police spotted Inman walking downtown and detained her. While interviewing her, officers were told of a second call about a woman matching Inman's description who had yelled racial epithets at two patrons in a downtown Mountain View restaurant, one of whom was of Asian descent, according to police.
A 36-year-old man was eating outside with a friend near Castro and Villa streets when Inman approached him and, unprovoked, allegedly spat on him. She then used an ethnic slur and told him to go back to “where you came from,” the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said in a statement on Monday when announcing charges against her.
A fellow diner, who had seen Inman approach other people of Asian descent in the area but did not know how she spoke with them, called police, the DA's Office said.
Police said officers interviewed the victims of both February incidents and neither party wanted to seek prosecution. Because neither crime was witnessed by police, Inman was released.
MVPD policy is to proactively investigate possible hate crimes, so officers continued the investigation and brought the case against Inman to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for review. Officials at the DA's Office determined hate crime charges could be brought against Inman, and issued a warrant for her arrest. There was no indication that in the attempted theft March 5 (when Inman was arrested) that she made remarks regarding anyone's ethnicity.
Inman was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of petty theft, robbery, and two counts of violation of civil rights by force or threat.
“This case is both disheartening and disturbing. Mountain View is a vibrant community in many ways thanks to the diversity that exists here,” said Chief Chris Hsiung. “Hate crimes have not and will not be tolerated in Mountain View and as this case demonstrates, we take these crimes seriously and will investigate them to the fullest extent.”
Inman faces possible incarceration if convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime and a charge of battery, the DA's Office said. Her arraignment is scheduled for Monday afternoon at 1:31 p.m. at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.
“Our community stands together against any hatred and racism against the Asian Pacific Islander community,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “It is ignorant. It is wrong. And when it is criminal -- those who are charged will face the full power of my Office to hold them accountable.”