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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Jose Gomez III of Midland, Texas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on hate crime charges after fighting and attempting to murder an Asian family he believed was Chinese and responsible for the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent DOJ press release said.
“Pandemic-driven and racially-motivated acts of violence are deplorable crimes, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in the release. “Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have spiked during the pandemic and must be confronted. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin.”
Gomez had pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime.
“Hate-motivated violence will simply not be tolerated in our society and every person deserves to feel safe from such vicious harm,” Ashley C. Hoff, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said in the release. "Today’s sentence sends the message loud and clear that our office will aggressively prosecute federal hate crimes while seeking justice for victims.”
On March 14, 2020, Gomez entered a Sam's Club Warehouse in Midland behind an Asian family with young children, the release said. Gomez believed that the family was "from the country who started spreading that disease around" and followed them through the store for several minutes. Gomez then briefly abandoned the family, only to return wielding a bent serrated steak knife between his knuckles. He punched the father—identified as B.C.—in the face, cutting him, before leaving to find an eight-inch knife in the store. He returned to the family and slashed the face of the six-year-old child—identified as R.C.—starting near his right eye, splitting his right ear and wrapping around to the back of his head. Gomez also stabbed a white store employee—identified as Z.O.—who intervened to stop Gomez's assault on the family.
"Mr. Gomez's cowardly and racially motivated actions do not represent our West Texas community," Jeffery R. Downey, special agent in charge of the FBI El Paso Field Office, said in the release. "It is our hope today's sentence will help the victims with the healing process. Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected."