LA inmate could face hate crime charge in jail worker attack

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles County jail inmate face hate crime charges after he knocked down and repeatedly punched a jail employee who is Asian American, authorities said Friday.

Arnulfo Meza, 29, attacked the 54-year-old woman without warning on Wednesday at the Inmate Reception Center at a jail.

Meza’s left hand had been freed from his waist chain after he asked to use the restroom, a county Sheriff’s Department statement said.

Surveillance video shows the custody assistant handing the man some toilet paper when he suddenly punches her three times in the face, knocking her to the floor on her back where she crashes into a medical equipment stand. He then punches her twice more before stepping away and sitting on a gurney.

The woman gets up and uses her radio to call for aid. Sheriff’s employees flood in moments later and restrain the man, who doesn’t resist.

The custody assistant was taken to a hospital with face and head injuries and was in stable condition, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Meza was taken to a high-security area and could face charges of assault and committing a hate crime, the Sheriff’s Department said.

The statement didn’t provide other details but information on a Sheriff’s Department jail website said Meza was arrested Monday night in suburban El Monte on suspicion of committing a felony.

The website didn’t provide other details.

The attack follows a reported rise in anti-Asian violence around the nation since the coronavirus entered the U.S. after surfacing in China. Some attackers shouted anti-Asian slurs but other assaults haven’t been directly identified as hate crimes.

Two Asian American women were stabbed in an unprovoked attack this week in San Francisco, while two sisters employed at a liquor store in Baltimore were attacked by a man with a piece of cinder block, police said.

At least four Asian Americans were hurt last week in separate New York City attacks, including a woman who was struck in the head with a hammer, authorities said.