A King County jury has found a Bellevue man not guilty of threatening a local Muslim woman with a gun. Advocates had called the incident a “hate attack” and pushed for authorities to investigate.
The woman who reported the incident is Asha Gobana. She’s a mother of 10, originally from Ethiopia. She owns a small grocery store in Burien.
Advocates who helped with her case said she’s not ready to talk about the verdict.
The incident happened last year outside a 7-11 in Seatac. In court documents, Gobana describes a man who hit on her. She said he called her sexy and asked where he could get a Muslim lady.
Then, she alleges he pulled a pistol out of his pocket and said, “I hate Muslims. I don’t trust them.”
According to court documents, 7-11’s surveillance video shows an object that appeared to be a gun.
Police interviewed the suspect. He said he did hit on Gobana, but that he didn't have a gun.
Authorities brought two charges against the man – malicious harassment and unlawful display of a weapon. A jury found him not guilty.
Arsalan Bukhari is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group. He said it’s been an emotional ordeal for Gobana, but she did the right thing.
Bukhari: “All I could think about was the millions of Muslim children and millions of Muslim women who every day face threats based on their religious background. That is why I’m so thankful Ms. Gobana set an example for them all on how to respond when these things happen.”
Bukhari said CAIR tracked a record high level of anti-Muslim hate crimes last year. But that's just reported cases; Bukhari said many Muslims are often too afraid to speak out.
FBI statistics also show hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. And a new report from California State University, San Bernadino, shows a 78 percent spike last year alone.
That report also points out links between heated political rhetoric and hate crimes. For example, it found that after GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban against Muslims, hate crimes against that group shot up in the following days.