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US: Sex offender who tried to run over Muslims with car charged with hate crime

The suspect was arrested on two felonies and a hate crime charge, authorities say
The suspect attempted to run over Muslims in Heron Landing Park in Rancho Cordova, California, (Screengrab)

A sex offender who was arrested after allegedly shouting racial slurs and threatening to “shoot and bomb” Muslims at a park in California on Monday, has been charged with a hate crime.

The group of about 30 Muslims at the Heron Landing Park in Rancho Cordova, California, were of South Asian descent. 

The man, Robert Avery, also allegedly tried to run people over at the park with a 2012 Honda Insight, authorities say. No one was injured.

Nearly 12 hours after the incident, the suspect turned himself in. He was arrested on charges related to assault with a deadly weapon, making criminal threats, and a hate crime.

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“We thank local law enforcement authorities for their swift action in taking the suspect into custody and urge federal authorities to consider bringing hate crime charges for this apparently bias-motivated attack on members of a minority community,” Layli Shirani, a senior civil rights attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento Valley and central California, said.

Just this week, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates, the largest body of lawyers in the United States, passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia and calling on Congress and the United Nations to implement similar resolutions combating anti-Muslim sentiment.

The recommended strategies mentioned in the resolution include creating awareness campaigns to educate Americans about Islam and Muslims and also new mechanisms for reporting incidents of Islamophobia and hate crimes.

The resolution also urges US Congress to adopt a bill introduced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to establish an office in the State Department that monitors Islamophobia - similar to the one that exists for monitoring antisemitism.

In a report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) last year, data showed that the number of Muslims who had experienced discrimination had remained unchanged.

Around 60 percent of Muslims said they have faced discrimination over the past half-decade, including this past year, according to the group's polling. 

Over the past several years, there have been a number of high-profile attacks against Muslim communities in western countries. In 2017, a gunman attacked a mosque in Quebec City and killed six worshippers. Then in 2019, another gunman killed more than 50 Muslim worshippers attending a Friday prayer service in New Zealand.

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