The recent stabbing of a Palestinian American in Austin, Texas, qualifies as a hate crime, local authorities confirmed Wednesday.
The Austin Police Department arrested Bert James Baker, 36, on Sunday after he allegedly attacked Zacharia Doar, 23, who was riding in a truck near the University of Austin. In an update Wednesday, police said their Hate Crimes Review Committee determined the evidence meets the definition of a hate crime.
Baker was already charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and it will be up to the Travis County, Texas, District Attorney’s office to bring hate crime charges against him, police noted. The office said Wednesday they are receiving the evidence and “look forward to working with them,” The Associated Press reported.
Doar and three other Muslim Americans were riding a truck that displayed a keffiyeh scarf with “Free Palestine” written on it, after attending a pro-Palestnian protest, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Baker, on a bicycle, rode up to the truck, opened the tailgate and doors while yelling racial slurs, the AP reported, citing a police affidavit. The passengers got out of the truck and approached Baker, who then allegedly punched Doar in the shoulders, prompting a fight, per the affidavit.
Next, Baker reportedly pulled out of a knife and stabbed Doar in the rib, police said. When authorities arrived, they discovered Doar with non-life-threatening injuries and transferred him to a local hospital.
“He’s in pain, he’s in agony,” Nizar Doar, the victim’s father, said during a news conference on Tuesday. “The first thing that came to mind is, I’m going to lose my son…I was thinking, ‘How am I going to tell them that I failed to protect my son?’”
Niza said his son blamed President Biden for not calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.
“He said, ‘Mr. President, Mr. Joe Biden, I blame you,’” Nizar said Tuesday. “‘I blame you for what happened to me. If you would have called for a ceasefire three months ago, this would not have happened.’”
The attack on Doar follows a recent surge in threats against Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities in the United States in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war that began after the militant group launched its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel that left about 1,200 people dead.
Three Palestinian students in November were shot and injured near the University of Vermont while taking a walk at night. A man was later arrested and charged with three counts of attempted murder and authorities are investigating possible hate crime charges.
Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.