Mistaking Asian woman as white, Asian man attacks her over hate crimes, CA cops say

Summer Lin
·2 min read

An Asian man was arrested after California police say he kidnapped and tried to sexually assault an Asian woman, believing she was white, in retaliation for the rise in hate crimes against Asians.

Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, was arrested Thursday night at his Lake Forest home, Irvine police said in a Facebook post. Rhee was charged with kidnapping with intent to commit a sexual assault and is being held at Orange County Jail on $1 million bail.

Police said an Asian woman was sitting in her car near her apartment on Thursday afternoon and looked up to see Rhee holding a handgun. Rhee reportedly told the woman if she wanted to live, she would have to get in the back of her car, according to police.

The woman offered Rhee money and her wallet, and Rhee responded they would “do that later,” police said, before Rhee pushed her into the back seat. According to authorities, the woman thought she was going to be killed or sexually assaulted and looked for an escape.

Police said Rhee committed sexual battery against the woman and she yelled that Rhee had a gun to a maintenance worker, who was nearby. According to officials, Rhee ran from the car and got into his vehicle. Surveillance footage captured his license plate as he drove away.

Irvine police said they found Rhee’s home through his license plate information and detained Rhee. Detectives reportedly got a search warrant and found several items from Rhee’s apartment and car, including a BB gun, connecting him to the crimes.

Rhee reportedly targeted the Asian woman because he mistook her as white, according to detectives. They also believe that Rhee assaulted the woman in “retaliation for hate crimes committed against the Asian community” and are adding hate crime charges in the criminal complaint filed with the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

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