SAN LEANDRO, Calif. — A woman in the San Francisco Bay Area has been arrested on suspicion of posting handwritten messages at several homes, targeting Asian Americans and suggesting that those not native to the United States should leave the country immediately.
Police in San Leandro, a suburb of 89,000 just south of Oakland, said officers were called to the Heron Bay neighborhood Friday evening after receiving reports of notes containing "insensitive messages towards minorities" taped to five homes.
"If you are a woman or man and was born in other country, return, go back to your land immediately, fast, with urgency," the note said. It ended with "One American, white, brave, that serves the Nation or USA is going to live here."
Nancy Arechiga, 52, was carrying a backpack containing copies of the same notes, the statement said. She was arrested "for these inappropriate messages that instilled fear and intimidation upon those residents."
Bay area resident Trinh, who asked that her last name not be used out of safety concerns, told NBC Asian America that her brother gave the officers images captured on their doorbell security camera of a woman taping the note. The officers soon found her in the area, police said in a statement.
“I didn’t know who could have done this, and my family were in constant fear wondering,” Trinh said. “Who could have done such a despicable thing?”
Trinh discovered she was one of the five homes that Arechiga targeted. Her brother had taken their family dog out on May 22 and found an anonymous message taped to their front door. She said that the anonymity of the letter made her feel even worse and more unsafe.
"We welcome people's rights to express themselves, but not in a manner that infringes upon a community's sense of security and well-being," Lt. Isaac Benabou said.
Arechiga was taken to Alameda County jail and booked for investigation of committing a hate crime. She was issued a citation and released from custody, another police official, Lt. Ted Henderson, said.
California has set bail at $0 for low-level crimes and misdemeanors in an effort to keep jails empty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Arechiga was told to appear in court, though the date hasn't been set because of the holiday weekend, he said.
It wasn't known whether she has retained a lawyer. A phone number listed for Arechiga has been disconnected.
Police were also investigating whether Arechiga was responsible for a similar note found Thursday on a local trail. The note partially read, "no Asians allowed, leave immediately." The letter also included a deadline of when the family had to move out, Trinh said.
While Arechiga was caught, Trinh still feels wary roaming around her neighborhood. "It’s heartbreaking," she said. “People like her are still out there and it’s hard not to feel constantly threatened all the time.”