by: Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
A man with ties to eastern Washington was charged with malicious harassment -- the state's hate crime law -- after police said he assaulted two men on a Metro bus that he thought were gay, police said.
Police said the incident happened the night of Jan. 4 on Metro route No. 1. The men, who are from Saudi Arabia and came to Seattle for college, boarded the bus at South Jackson Street and Fourth Avenue South.
The suspect, Andrew Belasco, yelled expletives at the men and asked, "Why did you come to our country?" according to charging documents. He continued to talk about Arabic people coming to America, gave the young men the finger and told them they were gay, police said.
The driver told Belasco to get off the bus near Prefontaine Place South and Third Avenue. Belasco continued to yell at the men, then punched one in the chest and shoulder before getting off the bus, police said.
The driver called his dispatcher for police, and the driver pointed police to Belasco lying behind a parked SUV. A sheriff's deputy reported smelling alcohol on Belasco's breath and thought he was intoxicated.
When questioned, Belasco told the deputy he didn't like gays and said he punched one of them because of his sexual orientation and ethnicity, according to court documents.
Belasco, who is awaiting sentencing in a disorderly conduct case, is scheduled to be arraigned in the malicious harassment case Jan. 22.