The Justice Department today announced that Jose Gomez III, 21, of Midland, Texas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on hate crime charges for attacking an Asian family he believed was Chinese and therefore responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Gomez had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime.
According to the facts admitted in the plea, on March 14, 2020, Gomez entered a Sam’s Club Warehouse in Midland, Texas, behind an Asian family with young children. Gomez had never seen them before and believed they were Chinese. Gomez followed them in the store for several minutes because he perceived them to be a “threat” as they were “from the country who started spreading that disease around.” Gomez then momentarily left the family to find a serrated steak knife in the store. Gomez bent the blade so that when he held the handle in his fist, the blade rested against his knuckles, sharp-edge facing outward. Gomez returned to the Asian family and punched the father, B.C., in the face, cutting him. Gomez then left to retrieve an eight-inch knife from the store. When Gomez returned to B.C., Gomez abruptly turned towards B.C.’s two young children – then aged six and two years old – who were seated in the front basket of the shopping cart. Gomez slashed open the face of R.C., the then-six-year-old child. The blade entered millimeters from R.C.’s right eye, split his right ear, and wrapped around to the back of his skull. Gomez also stabbed a white Sam’s Club employee, Z.O., who intervened to stop Gomez from further assaulting the Asian family. While being held down on the ground, Gomez yelled at the Asian family, “Get out of America!”
Gomez admitted he believed the Asian family was Chinese and that he blamed them for the COVID-19 pandemic. Gomez further admitted he had attempted to kill the six-year-old child. Gomez also admitted he had attacked Z.O., the store employee, because Gomez wanted to kill the six-year-old child and Z.O. was preventing him from doing so.
“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.”
“Hate-motivated violence will simply not be tolerated in our society and every person deserves to feel safe from such vicious harm,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff for the Western District of Texas. “Today’s sentence sends the message loud and clear that our office will aggressively prosecute federal hate crimes while seeking justice for victims.”
“Mr. Gomez’s cowardly and racially motivated actions do not represent our West Texas community,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffery R. Downey of the FBI El Paso Field Office. “It is our hope today’s sentence will help the victims with the healing process. Rest assured, the FBI and our law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue anyone who commits these violent acts to ensure the civil rights of all Americans are protected.”
The case was investigated by the Midland Police Department and the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandi Young for the Western District of Texas and Trial Attorney Angie Cha of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.