Officers arrested a suspect in relation to a series of brutal assaults targeting elderly residents in Oakland’s Chinatown, LeRonne Armstrong, the new police chief, said on Monday.
Authorities identified the suspect as 28-year-old Yahya Muslim. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Muslim had been charged with assault, battery, elder abuse, and a special allegation of offenses while he is out on bail.
Additionally, the suspect has two previous felony assault convictions, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said.
Armstrong immediately announced the arrest of Muslim shortly after being sworn in as Oakland’s newest police chief. The suspect allegedly assaulted a 91-year-old man, which was caught in surveillance footage. Authorities are also accusing Muslim of attacking two other elderly residents on the same day.
“Today, we’re sending a message to those that commit crime in this city that we will pursue you, and we will arrest you. We all need to band together to take a stand and say this violence is unacceptable,” Armstrong said.
Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County’s District Attorney, said her office is conducting an investigation to determine whether Muslim’s attacks were racially-biased. If found to be true, the suspect’s charges would also include hate crime.
“We work to be a unified community, respectful of the diversity. But over the years, we have seen a spike in crimes, especially violent crimes that are motivated by hate and motivated by aggression,” said O’Malley.
While the Oakland police scramble to utilize its scarce resources, community residents are taking action. Citizen patrols have been formed, and a GoFundMe has successfully raised over $50,000 to hire armed security guards to patrol around the city.
“Just to try to deflect the attackers. You know, if they see something professional like that, they’ll be like, maybe I don’t want to do that,” Jo Jo Au, one of the organizers of the efforts, said.
Citizens have painted murals across the area, urging unity. However, O’Malley said the racial motivation of the crimes is something that takes precedence.
“Based on the rhetoric we’re hearing, particularly linked to the coronavirus, to COVID, to still calling it the ‘Chinese Virus’ and things like that. That fuels hate, and it fuels aggression,” O’Malley said.
Many residents, on the other hand, believe the problem is much simpler. “I think they just take this as an excuse to do crime,” one individual named Jimmy said.
Muslim has so far been charged with three counts of assault and committing great bodily injury against an elderly person. O’Malley noted the suspect had a history of convictions prior to his brutal crime, CBS Local reported.
Police said they had custody of the suspect since Monday, after the series of assaults in Chinatown in relation to a separate criminal case. A spokesperson for the Oakland police expressed the department’s gratitude towards the community for their assistance in the crimes.