The Alameda County District Attorney on Thursday charged a Castro Valley woman with battery and violating a man's civil rights after she was caught on cell phone video yelling anti-Muslim slurs, throwing coffee and striking the man with an umbrella at a park.
Both counts against Denise Slader, an employee with the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, are misdemeanors, according to the complaint. A hate crime is the layman's term for a "violation of civil rights."
“We take very seriously conduct that infringes upon our citizens’ right to be free of violence and hatred," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley said in a statement.
Slader, who is out of custody, is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 7.
"This is the first step toward justice," Rasheed Albeshari, the man who was the target of the slurs and hit with the umbrella, told NBC Bay Area on Thursday. "I feel relieved that the justice system and my government, alongside my fellow American citizens, are standing for justice."
Slader was not immediately available for comment on Thursday. But she told NBC Bay Area in an interview this month that she had been "surrounded" by eight Muslims and hit one of the men, because it was "instinctual."
"Their religion is dangerous, very dangerous, this 'Muslim thing,' " she added. Slader said she is a big Donald Trump supporter and agrees with his recent controversial statement to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
The charges stem from Dec. 6, when Slader approached a group of Muslim men praying by the volleyball court at Lake Chabot Regional Park in Castro Valley.
Albeshari took out his phone and captured the exchange on video.
In the video, a woman identified as Slader stands with her purse, umbrella and a cup of coffee, saying Albeshari's "people have tortured" others.
"Your mind has been taken over, brainwashed. You have nothing but hate," she rants.
Albeshari is then heard saying, "This lady is talking about my God." Albeshari wrote on Facebook that the woman said to him, "Allah is evil."
A park ranger can be seen going up to Slader and trying to diffuse the situation, telling her what she is saying is "inappropriate." The woman gets mad about being filmed and lunges toward Albeshari. The video becomes fuzzy, but Slader appears to throw her coffee at Albeshari. Off camera, prosecutors say she threw an umbrella at him.
Albeshari then yells, "Do not touch me! Call the cops."
Despite what happened, Albeshari said he realized that Slader is not representative of Amerians, just like radical Muslims are not representative of the entire faith.
"This lady and the people who think her way are the ISIS of America," Albeshari said, noting that he realized most of his neighbors are not full of such hate. "They're a minority group."
The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Santa Clara issued a statement after the DA's announcement, welcoming the hate crimes charges - something that Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator Brice Hamack had formally urged.
"We commend law enforcement's thorough investigation and swift action following this incident," Hamack said in a statement. "With the recent unprecedented rise in hate attacks targeting Muslims across the nation, this sends the message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in the Bay Area."
Hamack said CAIR has been receiving increased reports of hate incidents against Muslims across the Bay Area in recent weeks, including a suspicious white powder sent to the Santa Clara office last week, which the FBI has since declared benign.
Slader has worked for 10 years in an administrative capacity with the Division of Adult Parole Operations as a program technician, according to Dept. of Corrections spokesman Luis Patino. An internal CDCR investigation into the incident was launched, but Patino did not immediately knwow what Slader'sjob status was on Thursday.