By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
TORRANCE — The city of Torrance once again was the site of a recent racially motivated attack, this time targeting a Japanese American man who was in his car with his 13-year-old son and had just left Starbucks at the Rolling Hills Plaza when an unidentified driver exited his car, reportedly tried to goad the man to fight, pushed him, and yelled “Get out of this country. Go back to your country.”
Names of the victims are being withheld at their request. A police report has been filed with the Torrance Police Department. The assailant is described as being in his 40s, wearing black gloves with a Hempvana logo, driving a gray Hyundai.
Sandy Roxas, attorney for the victims, is calling for a woman seen recording the encounter to come forward with the video.
The incident is the latest in a string of what appear to be hate crimes occurring over the past few weeks in Torrance, a city with an Asian American population of about 37%.
On July 6, Lena Hernandez, a 54-year-old retired social worker accused of initiating two separate racist tirades on June 10 aimed at Asian Americans in Wilson Park, faced a charge of misdemeanor battery stemming from an Oct. 11, 2019 attack on Kayceelynn Salminao at Del Amo Fashion Center. Arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 5, nearly one year after the incident was reported.
The Rafu Shimpo has learned that earlier this year, Hernandez was convicted of battery and served five days in jail related to an incident that occurred April 6 in Long Beach. Records show that she was also named in a misdemeanor hit-and-run in February in which no one was injured.
The recent rash of hate-speak has led to a call for action, including a change.org petition that is approaching a total of 20,000 signatures, as well as a rally scheduled for Saturday, July 11 at 10 a.m. at Wilson Park.
Roxas stresses the importance of community-wide action. “The filing of a single count of battery is one small step towards holding Lena Hernandez accountable for her actions against Kayceelyn Salminao. However, the victims are disheartened and unsatisfied with the delay in justice and the lack of criminal accountability,” she points out.
“Our strength and voices as Asian Americans will not be silenced or defined by the city attorney’s decision to decline charges for the June 10, 2020 racially motivated attacks at Wilson Park. These are real victims, including two small children, who suffered emotional and mental trauma as a result of Lena Hernandez’s verbal attacks because of their status as Asian Americans.”
Statement by Victims of Lena Hernandez
We are relieved that Lena Hernandez has been arrested and we feel that this is one small step towards justice for all the victims. However, we are disheartened and unsatisfied that she was only charged with a single count of misdemeanor battery on Kayceelyn Salminao.
It took 20 million views on social media and the public’s outcry for the Torrance Police Department to finally present the case to the Torrance City Attorney’s Office for filing consideration.
We have suffered extreme emotional and mental trauma as a result of Lena Hernandez’s verbal attacks, yet the city attorney did not find our statements and the viral videos to be sufficient evidence to support a criminal filing of criminal threats, assault, or child endangerment.
The declination is even more disappointing because it sends the wrong message to individuals who choose to threaten and verbally attack people and their children based on their race and ethnicity.
The ugly and racist actions of one individual has highlighted the greatness in coming together for a certain cause, in this case, fighting racism and xenophobia. We know that we are not alone. We know that together, our unified voices can be heard. And now the world knows that we will not tolerate racism and stay silent.
We thank the community for the unending support.
Japanese American Male Victim