Police are investigating a verbal and racial attack that was caught on video at a popular Orange County shopping plaza, and the woman in the video believes she was targeted because she asked a man to keep his social distance.
The 30-year-old Irvine mom says she’s actually not surprised this happened to her. She says she has seen so many other incidents of Asians being unfairly targeted since the start of the pandemic that she anticipated it could happen to her one day. And that’s why, she says, she’s speaking out.
“I’m kind of emotionally prepared for this kind of situation,” Hanna Li said.
Late Sunday morning, Li found herself on the receiving end of racist abuse, so she began recording.
Li says the man in the gray jeep told her to go back to China, with the video catching the end of that exchange. But the man can be heard calling her a racial slur.
Li says it started when they were in line outside the Sephora store at the Market Place shopping plaza in Tustin. She says she asked the man, who was behind her, to give her some space.
“You know, there’s spots marking where you stand, so to keep social distancing,” Li says. “He’s not standing on the spot, so he’s so close to me. So, I told him, ‘Could you keep some distance from me?’”
Li says it wasn’t until she left the store that the man verbally attacked her.
The man, behind the wheel of Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot, can be heard on the video, “Are you really that stupid? You know that recording doesn’t do anything. Stay home and thanks for giving my country COVID.”
The video did get the attention of many, including Congresswoman Katie Porter of Irvine.
“I’ve stood in that exact parking lot in our district,” Porter tweeted. “Seeing this racist behavior in our community is saddening and infuriating.”
Tustin police Tuesday provided the following statement in response to a request for comment:
“We treat all reports like this with a very high importance. Our detective bureau became aware of this incident yesterday afternoon. We have been investigating the incident, which included an in depth interview with the reporting party who took the video. Our obligation is to conduct a thorough investigation, which includes respecting the request for anonymity and confidentiality for the reporting party in this incident. This investigation is ongoing, but rest assured that hate speech and racist behavior like that depicted in the video is not acceptable in any form and is always taken seriously by this department.”
Li says she doesn’t wish harm on the man. She just wants him to apologize.
“It could be an elderly woman. It could be someone’s mom. Someone eventually needs to stand up.”
NBCLA attempted to reach the man in the video for comment on this story but was unable to do so.
Note: The man’s face has been blurred in the video because police have not identified him and have not clarified whether they’re investigating the incident or whether a crime as committed.