Community calls for justice for Fil-Am family targeted in racist attack

Filipino American community members on Friday, June 17 rallied at the Los Angles District Attorney’s office in Van Nuys to call for justice for the Roque family, who were victims of anti-Asian hate in May. | Photo courtesy of the Filipino Migrant Center/Facebook

Arrest warrant issued for suspect

FILIPINO American community members are calling on the Los Angeles Police Department to continue to investigate an incident during which a man violently attacked and hurled racial slurs against a Fil-Am family last month.

A community rally held on Friday, June 17 outside the Los Angeles Superior Court in Van Nuys, California demanded that police conduct a full and thorough investigation into the verbal and physical charges the Roque family filed against Nicholas Weber on May 13 this year.

The rally was jointly organized by Filipino Migrant Center, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and Migrante Los Angeles.

The groups also have issued a letter addressed to District Attorney George Gascón to “launch a full-scale criminal investigation on this hate-motivated attack.”

“We are adamant that the suspect must be held responsible and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we wholeheartedly support the Roque family’s decision to pursue justice,” the letter reads, adding, “Please help bring the Roque family peace of mind in one of the darkest times of their lives.”

An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday, June 16 against 31-year-old Weber from North Hollywood who failed to appear in court last June 8 to face charges of felony and misdemeanor battery, with hate crime allegations.

Attorney Sandy Roxas, the legal counsel of the Roque family, said since Weber is still at-large, he poses a great threat to her clients and the public.

“He (Weber) is still out, which is very dangerous. He already had an arrest warrant but we do not know if the police are making any efforts to apprehend him. That is why we having this rally so that the public could show support for the family and to show the DA’s office and show the law enforcement that they have a lot of community support,” Roxas told the Asian Journal in an interview.

Around 10 p.m. on May 13, Patricia Roque, 19, and her mom, Nerissa, were getting late-night snacks at the McDonald’s drive-thru on Victory Boulevard in North Hollywood when a dark blue jeep, driven by Weber, hit their car from behind.

As Patricia thought it was just a simple case of a hit-and-run, she went out of the car and started taking cellphone videos of the damages to their car.

This was when the suspect went to the side of their car and started throwing racial slurs with a mock Asian accent. The suspect threatened them by saying, “I’ll kill you,” Patricia recounted.

While waiting for the police to respond to their 911 call, Patricia called her dad, Gabriel, who arrived in time to stop Weber who was trying to enter the car to get to Patricia.

In the process of stopping the suspect from hurting his daughter who was seated in the passenger’s seat of the car, the 62-year-old father was pushed down to the pavement by the suspect. Gabriel suffered injuries, including a broken rib and bruises on his arms.

“My family and I were victims of anti-Asian hate. What initially started off as a minor traffic collision quickly escalated to verbal and physical assaults. We were taunted, ridiculed, and belittled because of our appearance as Asian Americans. Specifically, the suspect called us ‘ching chong’ and made squinting eye motions as he verbally threatened us,” Patricia Roque told the Asian Journal.

The young Roque said they waited for almost an hour for police to arrive at the scene.
“We called the police, but they were slow to respond, so we called my dad for help. When my dad arrived, the suspect continued to verbally assault us and attempted to open our car door as I was seated in the passenger seat. When my father tried to stop the suspect from further attacking us, the suspect viciously attacked my dad by beating him and throwing him on the ground,” she narrated.

After attacking her father, Weber reportedly turned to her mother and strangled her.
“My mom tried to intervene to stop the attack on my dad. At that point, the suspect turned his anger and hate towards my mom and started strangling her with his bare hands. We all screamed for help. We all pleaded for the suspect to stop,” Patricia said.

She said luckily, a bystander helped stop Weber from further attacking her family.
When the police finally arrived, Weber was taken by an ambulance to the hospital and later on, was released with a citation to appear in court last June 8 but he never did.

Roxas said the victims are fearing for their lives as the suspect reportedly resides in the same neighborhood.

“He lives in North Hollywood, too. It is very dangerous for our clients to be in the same city as he is. If he sees them, he could hurt them, that’s dangerous,” she said.

According to Roxas, their hands are tied and they cannot do anything about the case until Weber is apprehended.

“There’s nothing we can do right now until he is taken into custody. All we can do is to ask law enforcement to try to look for him, go to his home, go to his job, go find him because they know how to find him, because they have his information. Once he is arrested, he will be arraigned and read the charges against him,” she said.

Living in the U.S. for more than 10 years, Gabriel and Nerissa never thought something like this would happen to their family.

“We are just seeing stories about hate crimes on television. We can’t believe this had happened to us,” said Gabriel, who works as an accountant. He had to take time off work leave due to the injuries he sustained from Weber’s attack.

“We hope that the authorities would seriously look into these hate crimes,” said Nerissa, a caregiver and a member of the Filipino Migrant Center. “Nobody, whatever the color of their skin, deserves this kind of treatment.”

The 47-year-old mother of three said that the family will choose not to live in fear, despite the harrowing attack.

“The fear will not disappear any time soon but we need to be strong for our family. We cannot live with fear. We should stand together against these hate crimes,” she said.

“There is no doubt that the suspect’s actions and attacks were motivated by hate. This was the most traumatic experience of our lives. I feared that the suspect would kill us because of what we looked like—because we are Asian,” Patricia said.

This fight, Gabriel said, is not only for their family but for all underrepresented groups living here in the U.S.

“Authorities should show these perpetrators that they don’t just do this crime to whoever they want. They should know that there’s a law that prevents them from doing these. They should be held liable for persecuting or hurting people just because they look different,” he said.

The Roque family is continuing to call for a full investigation and “demand that this case be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Patricia said.

During this ordeal, Patricia said they are grateful for the support they are getting from the Filipino community here.

“We thank the community for supporting us at this difficult time. The Filipino American and Asian American communities have rallied behind us, so we know we are not alone,” she said.

The Filipino Migrant Center, meanwhile, has created a fundraiser on its website for the Roque family’s physical and emotional recovery.

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