SBPD investigates hate crime against Asian American family

File photo

Leisure World family receives threatening letter

Courtesy of Seal Beach Police Department

Update: Since this story first appeared in print, a rally was held outside Leisure World to protest anti-Asian hatred. The Golden Rain Foundation, which runs Seal Beach Leisure World, has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the as-yet-unidentified suspect in the hate crime that triggered the police investigation. 

The Seal Beach Police Department is investigating a hate crime in which a threatening letter was mailed to an Asian American family.

On Monday, March 22, the Seal Beach Police Department received a call from a resident in the 55+ community of Leisure World. The caller reported that her elderly mother had received a threatening letter in the mail. The SBPD is working with the Postal Inspector on the investigation, according to Lt. Nick Nicholas, the department’s public information officer.

The handwritten, anonymous letter contained a threatening message toward Asian Americans. The author of the letter wrote, “Watch out! Pack your bags and go back to your county where you belong!” Fearing for their safety, the family contacted the Seal Beach Police Department to report this incident.

Seal Beach investigators are diligently working to identify the suspect and author of the threatening letter. Investigative efforts including DNA and fingerprint analysis, handwriting analysis, neighborhood canvass, and video surveillance review.

“It concerns me greatly that someone would do this. It is unacceptable and our Seal Beach Police are fully investigating this serious hate crime to try to find out who wrote this letter,” wrote District Two Councilman Thomas Moore. His district includes Leisure World.

Mayor/District One Councilman Joe Kalmick was pleased to see that the police had “quickly and aggressively begun an investigation into this horrible display of such hatred and ignorance.”

While neither Moore nor Kalmick had heard from constituents about racial hostility, District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt had.

“I’m dismayed by some comments I have heard over the years (when I could, I let them know they were wrong, not in those words though),” Massa-Lavitt wrote.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s QuickFacts page puts the Asian American population of Seal Beach at 11.1%, based on population estimates as of July 1, 2019. (The website did not provide a margin of error.)

“Hate directed toward any member of our community is disgusting and will not be tolerated,” said Seal Beach Chief of Police Philip L. Gonshak.

“Across the county we are seeing more and more violence committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We will not allow this to happen in Seal Beach. Our investigators are working hard to follow up on any and all leads we receive,” he said.

“In Orange County, 83 hate crimes were reported in 2019, a 24% increase from 2018,” according to the Orange County 2019 Hate Crime Report, which was released in October 2020.

According to the report, the motive for hate crimes was race, ethnicity or national origin in 47% of the known cases that year. An anti-Asian motives was found in 17% of the crimes. The document was issued by the Orange County Commission on Human Relations.

“Comparing 2018 to 2019, hate incidents dropped from 165 to 156, but hate crimes increased by over 20%, from 67 to 83,” according to the Hate Crime Report.

“In California, the legal definition of a hate crime under California Penal Code 422.6 is defined as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of another’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group of persons with one or more of the preceding actual or perceived characteristics,” according to the report.

“A hate incident is the behavior that is motivated by hate or bias towards a person’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation but is not criminal in nature,” according to the report.

Seal Beach Police are asking anyone with information about the threatening letter to call Detective Jon Ainley at (562) 799-4100 ext. 1113 or email him at jainley@sealbeachca.gov.

See related story:

GRF offers $5K reward for information in Leisure World hate crime

SBPD investigates hate crime against Asian American family