SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Six members of a violent thieving squad have been arrested and charged with hate crimes and other charges related to more than 70 incidents of theft, burglary and theft targeting Native Americans Asian in the South Bay, San Jose police said on Wednesday.
In the fall of 2021, the San JosÃ© Police Department’s theft unit concluded a year-long multi-jurisdictional investigation into âa prolific team of thieves targeting victims of Asian descent; Asian women were frequently the targeted victims and many were injured in the thefts.
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Those arrested have been identified as: Anthony Michael Robinson, 24 from Stockton; Cameron Alonzo Moody, 27 from East Palo Alto; Derje Damond Blanks, 23 from San JosÃ©; Hassani Burleson Ramsey, 24, Oakland; Clarence Jackson, 21 from East Palo Alto and Malik Short, 22 from Tracy.
Investigators said the men worked together between October 2020 and September 2021 to commit the crimes.
During the investigation, numerous firearms were recovered, including at least one phantom weapon. Many witnesses came forward and the victims provided valuable information that helped identify the suspects.
“I would like to thank all members of our department, as well as outside agencies, who assisted in this long and complex investigation,” San JosÃ© Police Chief Anthony Mata said in a press release. âThanks to their hard work, there are six fewer predators targeting members of our community. “
District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen said he, Chief Mata, council member Maya Esparza who represents the Little Saigon district and others at Wednesday’s press conference all personally took the thefts and attacks in the Vietnamese community.
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âI have a message to all the workers and all the good people in Little Saigon and those who attacked them,â Rosen said. âThis is my neighborhood, this is Mr. Rosenâs neighborhood. And this is the district of Chief Mata. And this is the neighborhood of city councilor Maya Esparza. And that’s the captain. [Brian] San JosÃ© Police Department Shab Quarter. Although we live in different places and our families come from different countries, we take your safety seriously and we take it personally. “
Rosen said the defendants targeted the victims because they assumed the women – who were almost all of Asian descent – did not use banks and carry cash, and also used ethnic slurs to designate the victims.
âI have decided to charge this as a hate crime as well for several reasons,â Rosen said. âNumber one, it adds additional detention time, which is appropriate for a case of this magnitude. Second, I recognize and think we all recognize that a hate crime not only affects the individual victims involved – and in this case, over 100 Asian women who have been victims of this violent gang – but that it affects also people in the Asian American community who are not targeted because it makes them fear that they will then be targeted. “
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Investigators said that as of late 2020, the wave of crimes included robberies and snatching robberies that basically all followed the same pattern. At Wednesday’s press conference, Shab credited the work of Police Detective Amanda Estantino for recognizing the trend among the incidents.
“After a few thefts, Detective Estantino – who is behind me – began to gather the information the suspects were using, and when she did, she realized that the extent of the geographic area they covered was everythingâ¦ the outing through Santa Clara County and beyond, “Shab said.” Over the next year, she was able to tie 177 of those flights together. “
John Le, a group of community volunteers called Asians With Attitude, told KPIX 5 he was relieved by the arrests. The began foot patrols in the Bay Area, including Little Saigon, when hate crimes against Asian Americans hit an all-time high earlier this year.
âIt was really scary because I don’t worry about myself, but of course my grandmother, my mom, my dad,â Le told KPIX 5. âI always remind them,â Always have your pepper spray on you, have your taser turned on, always be aware of your surroundings.
Patrols continue in parts of the Bay Area where there is a spike in crime.
Le and the volunteers just organized a class to teach people how to use their pepper spray. He also said business owners in Little Saigon have his number and call them to do foot patrols when they feel unsafe.
âWhen we’re out there most of the time nothing happens because they see a presence there,â Le said.
The investigation of the six suspects accused in the series of thefts is still ongoing. Investigators believed the crew could be responsible for numerous other thefts in the Bay Area.
Three of the six suspects have already been released from prison.
âI don’t think it was the only criminal ring doing it all,â Le said. “I always want everyone to be aware of their surroundings, keep an eye out.”
Anyone with information or victims of unreported incidents associated with these suspects are urged to contact Detective Estantino # 4339 of the San Jose Police Department Flight Unit at (408) 277-4166.
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Maria Cid Medina contributed to this report.