The three victims—including 30-year-old Sean Lai, an openly gay data scientist of Chinese ancestry—walked in their neighborhood near the National Cathedral when the incident occurred on Aug. 7. Police officials said a man physically attacked the family and yelled both racial and anti-LGBTQ+ slurs at them as they walked down the street, FOX 5 DC reported. According to a police report, the perpetrator shouted “faggots,” the LGBTQ+ community, and “You are not Americans.”
According to court documents filed in D.C. Superior Court, police officials arrived as the scene unfolded and arrested the perpetrator, identified as 38-year-old Patrick Joseph Miller Trebat. He was charged with one count of felony assault, two counts of simple assault, and one count of destruction of property for damaging Lai’s cellphone during the attack.
According to the Washington Blade, an incident report lists the assault as a suspected hate crime. A statement released by the Watch Commander of D.C. Police Second District said that the suspect had punched and kicked the three victims while saying, “Get out of my country.” After officers arrested Trebet, the three family members were transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Trebet allegedly attacked Lai and his parents without any provocation or prior contact.
Lai, identified as “Victim 3” in court documents, told police officials that the entire incident began when Trebat started following the family as they walked home. “Victim 3 states that he and his family tried to cross the street to create distance between them and Suspect 1,” the police report said. “Victim 3 states that he heard Defendant 1 call him and his family ‘faggots’ and that he heard D-1 exclaim, ‘You are not Americans!’ before D-1 began to assault his family,” the arrest affidavit continued.
It detailed the parents’ experience and listed them as non-English speakers who were provided Mandarin translation services to report the incident.
“V-1 stated that D-1 assaulted her husband V-2, causing him to fall to the ground,” the affidavit continues. “V-1 states that D-1 then pushed her to the ground, causing the listed injury. V-2 stated that D-1 came from behind and struck him with a closed fist in the back of the head, causing him to fall to the ground.”
According to the affidavit, Lai saw Trebat assault his parents, and a physical struggle ensued when he attempted to push him away from them. When Lai’s father tried to come between Trebat and Lai in an attempt to protect Lai, Trebat “kept pushing them both to the ground.”
In addition to charges brought against Trebat by D.C. police, prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. filed documents in D.C. Superior Court, charging Trebat with two counts of Bias-related Assault with Significant Bodily Injury and one count of Bias-related Assault in connection with the incident.
According to the Washington Blade, the bias aspect of the crime is attributed to the three victims’ “actual or perceived national origin,” not to Lai’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, even though one of the charging documents quotes Trebat as yelling the word “faggots.” Additionally, while Lai identifies as an out gay man, his sexual orientation is not identified in the police report or the arrest affidavit. A friend of Lai’s also told the Washington Blade that Lai plans to release a public statement about the incident after more details about the case become known.
Trebat, who apparently lives blocks away, was released two days after his arrest under the condition that he be placed in the court’s High-Intensity Supervision release program. Court records also indicate that D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Pipe issued a pretrial stay away order. Details of the order are not public at this time.
According to William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, investigations are ongoing.
In addition to following a rise in AAPI hate incidents across the country, the attack follows the brutal assault of Joshua Dowd, a gay Asian man, who was found bloody and beaten on rail tracks in Atlanta on July 11, 2021. While Dowd is now recovering, police officials are looking into the incident as aggravated assault. Whether or not bias towards his racial or sexual identity was motivation is unclear.
Attacks against the AAPI community continue across the country at alarming rates. As of this report, at least one anti-Asian incident is reported daily nationwide. While anti-Asian bias has been present in the U.S. long before the pandemic, advocates have attributed the rapid increase in crimes against AAPIs to misinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The AAPI community needs our support now more than ever, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends.