Police investigating after man was reportedly target of racial slurs at Home Depot

SEATTLE — An Asian American man said he was the target of racial slurs but police brushed off his concerns and even defended the suspect's first amendment rights.

“To have the very fabric of who you are being put down in such a hateful and uncalled for way,” said Kert Lin as he reflected on the racist incident.

It happened last Tuesday in the parking lot of Home Depot in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. He said the driver of another vehicle shouted a racial slur at him and told him to go back to China and open his eyes.

Lin said he took pictures of the man and his truck, which led to more of the racist tirade. To his dismay, he says security tried to discourage him from calling 911.

“They stood by my car. And these three men got out of their car, walked past us, goaded me to get out of my car. They said come out, come out,” Lin recounted.

When Lin felt safe, he went to speak to the manager on duty.

“His response was we don't control what other customers do, don't control what happens in the parking lot,” Lin added.

Then a Seattle police officer arrived to the scene.

“He said there was no law broken. That this man was exercising his first amendment rights, regardless of how I felt about what he was saying,” said Lin.

At a time when the FBI has warned of a surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus crisis, Lin says he pressed the officer - who told him he wouldn't take a report and there was no protocol in dealing with this situation.

But a video posted on social media by SPD Chief Carmen Best on March 30, as a show of solidarity to the Asian American community, directly refutes the officer. In the video she said, “We will document and investigate every reported hate crime. Even racist name calling should be reported to police.”

Lin posted about his experience on Facebook. After that, he says he got phone calls from SPD's top brass, including Chief Best who personally apologized to him.

KIRO 7 asked if that was enough.

“I don't know if I would call that a response,” Lin answered. “ I think they're repeating their message that has always been. Unfortunately, that's not being followed by their officers.”

Since March 10, SPD said it has received six reports of bias incidents against Asian Americans.

SPD declined KIRO 7’s request for an interview but sent this statement:

“The Seattle Police Department regards reports of bias incidents and crimes with the utmost seriousness. We are committed to leveraging our community outreach and our data driven approach to ensure we are doing all we can to address bias crimes in our community.

In recent years, the Department has worked diligently with our Asian American community to develop their trust in reporting bias crimes to the police. We have worked to build and maintain a strong partnership between the community and the police department.”

As a kindergarten teacher who typically advocates for his students and community, Lin said he felt a responsibility to share his experience.

“I want to encourage and I want to empower our community to stick up for ourselves, to know that we should be treated better,” Lin explained. “This is our city and that's the message I want to communicate with our community. This is our city, too. This is our police, too.”

Lin is now challenging the department for more internal training and to leverage its officers of color to help educate each other.

KIRO 7 also reached out to Home Depot who shared this statement: “We would never condone these types of comments. We’re discussing this with our security partners to reinforce our values and the importance of working with local law enforcement when incidents like this arise between customers. Our management would have done more but unfortunately we didn’t have the other customer’s information for follow up.”

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