MIDLAND, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Texas man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for attacking an Asian family in 2020 because he thought they were Chinese and therefore responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to federal court records
Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime.
When pleading guilty in March, Gomez admitted that he used a knife to slash Bawi Cung and his six and two-year-old sons inside a Sam's Club in Midland because he believed they were Chinese and spreading the coronavirus. Bawi Cung is from Myanmar.
The March 2020 attack occurred as Asians faced verbal harassment and physical assaults across the United States after the virus began spreading nationwide.
Gomez did not know the family when he followed them inside the store, federal authorities said in a statement. He followed them for several minutes because he perceived them to be a "threat" because they were "from the country who started spreading that disease around," according to the statement.
Gomez then purchased a serrated steak knife and slashed the three before a Sam's Club employee intervened, stopping the attack as he yelled, "Get out of America," prosecutors said. The employee was also stabbed as well.
The 21-year-old stated he had stabbed the employee because he was preventing him from killing the six-year-old child.
"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," said Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. "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."
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