A bicyclist near a university campus in Austin on Sunday pulled a 23-year-old Mansfield man from a vehicle and stabbed him during a fight in which the cyclist yelled racial slurs at a group of Palestinian-Americans, according to a Muslim civil rights organization.
Police arrested Bert Baker, 36, in connection with the stabbing at Nueces Street and West 26th Street. Baker was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
The stabbing victim was among four people who had earlier in the day attended a demonstration in support of Palestinian human rights. They were driving about 7 p.m. when Baker, who is a white, tried to rip a keffiyeh scarf reading “free Palestine” from the vehicle, a truck, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Three of the people in the vehicle are Palestinian-American, including the man who was stabbed.
Baker screamed slurs, opened a passenger door, pulled one of the victims from the truck and assaulted him, according to the CAIR account the organization attributed to the people in the vehicle.
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The others left the vehicle and fought Baker off.
After he appeared to be subdued, Baker stabbed one of the people, according to the CAIR account.
The organization did not release the name of the stabbing victim. KXAS-TV reported that he is Zacharia Doar, a Tarrant County resident who went with his father to Austin to attend the protest.
Baker, armed with a knife, was approaching a person who was facing away from the assailant, Doar said of the moments just before he was stabbed.
“When I swung him to the ground is whenever he kind of just hooked it and it got around onto my side,” Doar said in an interview with KXAS.
The Austin Police Department said it believed the assault was motivated by bias and that it would be considered by a committee that reviews possible hate crimes. In an update, police said the committee determined the facts of the case meet the definition of a hate crime.
Prosecutors with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether to enhance the charge as a hate crime.
In a statement, CAIR-Dallas Director Mustafa Carroll said, “We strongly condemn this apparent act of hate, we applaud these young men for bravely defending themselves, and we call on state and federal law enforcement authorities to file appropriate charges against the suspect, including hate crime charges. No one should be targeted and attacked because they put Palestinian-themed items on their vehicle. Anti-Palestinian racism and anti-Muslim bigotry have no place in Texas or anywhere else in our nation.”