A Texas man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for brutally attacking an Asian family he had blamed for the COVID pandemic.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 21-year-old Jose Gomez III confronted the Burmese family at a Sam’s Club on March 14, 2020, just a day after then-President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency. Prosecutors say the Midland resident followed the victims for several minutes because he perceived them to be a threat, as they came from the “country that started spreading that disease around.”
Gomez managed to find a serrated knife that was being sold in the store, and proceeded to bend the blade so its edge was facing outward as he held it with a fist. Investigators say he then cut the father by punching him in the face, and then retrieved another knife before turning his direction to the father’s children, who were six and two years old at the time. Gomez allegedly slashed the oldest kid’s face, causing a cut that began millimeters from his right eye and wrapped around to the back of his head.
Gomez also stabbed a Sam’s Club employee who intervened. According to the DOJ, Gomez was eventually restrained and held on the ground, while shouting to the family: “Get out of America!” Gomez admitted he had tried to kill the six-year-old boy before the worker stepped in.
Gomez previously pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime. He was originally facing a life sentence as well as a $250,000 fine for each charge.
U.S. law enforcement reported a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the year after the pandemic was declared. Many people accused President Trump of fueling the attacks with divisive rhetoric, as he would frequently blame China for the global health crisis. According to Stop AAPI Hate, the U.S. had recorded 9,000 anti-Asian incidents between March 2020 and June 2021.
“Pandemic-driven and racially-motivated acts of violence are deplorable crimes, and the Justice Department stands ready to use our hate crimes laws to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.“Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have spiked during the pandemic and must be confronted. All people deserve to feel safe and secure living in their communities, regardless of race, color or national origin.”