Santa Clara Co.: Hate crime charges filed against suspect in necklace robberies


An East Palo Alto man suspected of stealing $35,000 worth of necklaces from more than a dozen South Asian women in recent months will also face hate crime charges, according to the the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

Lathan O. Johnson, 37, is suspected of tearing necklaces away from at least 14 women in four cities around Santa Clara County and speeding away in a getaway car, authorities said Oct. 3.

The robberies began in June, when the women, who were almost always wearing a sari, bindi, or other type of ethnic attire, were targeted in San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, according to the district attorney’s office.

One victim was walking with her husband in Milpitas as Johnson approached and asked for directions, authorities said. Johnson allegedly then walked up behind them, pushed the woman to the ground, punched her husband and also pushed him to the ground. He allegedly ripped a necklace valued at $1,000 from the woman’s neck and then jumped into a car and sped away. The woman suffered a broken wrist, and her husband was treated for a possible broken nose.

Johnson was first tied to the crimes by the Milpitas Police Department, which connected him to the getaway car. He was taken into custody in August by the Santa Clara Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

Johnson, already facing robbery charges, was arraigned on hate crime charges on Oct. 4 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose.

“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,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “Santa Clara County’s precious diversity is our strength, our superpower — not a criminal opportunity.”

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