The African American family with young children allegedly returned to their home on Midwickhill Drive in Alhambra on Oct. 21 to find every room spray painted with the n-word, swastikas, and other racial slurs. Their belongings were smashed and doused in bleach and vinegar. The family, who moved to Alhambra three years ago, are suspected to be victims of the first hate crime of the year. The destruction and defamation was so bad that Alhambra Sergeant Jerry Johnson told NBC4, “It’s no question, the worst thing in 24 years of law enforcement I’ve ever seen.”
Almost a month later, police have not yet identified any suspects or motives, according to Johnson. Alhambra residents have responded to the alleged hate crime with surprise and outrage. Blacks are a small minority in Alhambra — less than 2 percent of the population. Reported hate crimes against residents, of any background, are very rare.
Indeed, the San Gabriel Valley has one of the lowest rates of hate crimes in the county, with 2.1 hate crimes per 100,000 residents, according to Marshall Wong, senior intergroup relations specialist at the County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations. The Metro region — L.A. neighborhoods east of West Hollywood including downtown and northeast of Boyle Heights — and the Antelope Valley region are tied for the highest rate of hate crimes in the county, at 8.3 incidents per 100,000 residents, according to the commission's 2012 Hate Crime Report. But the actual numbers could be higher. Hate crimes — offenses fueled by a bias against a certain race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation — often go unreported or are incorrectly categorized by law enforcement, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The past three years throughout L.A. County have seen the lowest levels of reported hate crimes in 23 years. Prior to the October attack on Midwickhill Drive, the last hate crime in Alhambra took place in November 2012 when a Mark Keppel High School student assaulted a student whom he thought was gay. In the past five years, there have been a total number of nine reported hate crimes in Alhambra targeting Asian, African American, LGBT, and Middle Eastern residents, according to the Alhambra Police Department.
While overall African Americans are by the far the most targeted for hate crimes in L.A. — at 66 percent in 2012 followed by Latinos at 18 percent — in Alhambra no one group appears to be singled out. “There seems to be a real diversity at who’s been targeted in the city,” Wong said. The types of hate crimes committed also varied, including vandalism, criminal threat, and physical and sexual assault. In contrast, neighboring cities like Pasadena and Altadena have experienced higher levels of hate crimes related to gang violence.
In interviews with four African American residents, members of the small Alhambra minority said they were shocked by the recent incident. Celeste Candida — one of Alhambra’s 1,281 African Americans residents according to the city of Alhambra — was very surprised by the attack. A longtime resident, she said she feels safe in her diverse neighborhood. “In my neighborhood, we’re like a family. We look out for each other,” said Candida, a professor at Whittier College. “I thought that people were beyond that. We’re in 2013.”
Various residents also said they felt entirely safe in Alhambra. “It’s very sad in this day and age that it is actually is going on,” said Antoine Montgomery, an African American South Pasadena resident. Montgomery, who walks his dog around Alhambra Park every day, added that he has never felt threatened in the city.
Alan Ashley, an African American personal trainer and Alhambra resident, is worried about interracial relations in the city. “I refuse to let the actions of a few people dictate my overall opinion,” Ashley said. “However, regardless of color I think that in this day in age, it’s a shame that racial tensions still exist in our culture. With so many interracial couples in our community, you would think that we would grow to look past the simple color of our skin and work together in our community in a positive manner.”
Other Alhambra residents of various backgrounds responded with outrage to the hateful vandalism and have donated money, clothes, and food to the victims of the October hate crime, according to Johnson.
“This makes me ashamed to be an Alhambra resident,” wrote Paula E. Dold on the Alhambra Source Facebook page. “Please let us know if anything is being done to show support for the family.”
“I honestly don't know what prompts anyone to hurt people or their property simply because of their ethnicity/color of their skin,” wrote Rachel Yanez in an email. “It's sick…just sick.”
“I am horrified that this hate crime took place. I live in this neighborhood and also have small children,” Karin Mak wrote in a comment. “Such acts incite fear and tear away at the fabric of the community. I wish there could be a community statement against such acts to show that residents support each other and do not tolerate such hateful acts.”
If anyone has information about this crime, please contact the Alhambra Police Department at (626) 570-5168.
*Correction: This story was clarified to indicate that the status of the home destruction is still under investigation as a hate crime.