A Cincinnati man has been charged with a federal hate crime on suspicion of assaulting an Asian-American college student because of his race in 2021 – an attack in which the defendant allegedly blamed the student for Covid-19 and threatened to kill him, authorities said.
Darrin Johnson, 26, was indicted by a federal grand jury on the hate crime charge Wednesday and arrested Thursday morning, the US attorney’s office for Ohio’s southern district said in a news release.
According to a complaint filed in federal court, the victim was a University of Cincinnati student whom Johnson punched and who suffered injuries including a minor concussion and cuts on his face.
Johnson approached the student on a Cincinnati sidewalk in August 2021 as the student prepared to go on a run, the complaint reads.
Johnson told the student to “go back to your country,” used a derogatory term for Covid-19 and accused him of having “brought (it) here,” and threatened to kill him, according to the complaint’s account from the student.
A witness said Johnson used an anti-Asian slur and said, “Thanks for Covid,” according to the complaint.
The comments amounted to “blaming (the victim) for Covid,” the indictment filed in court reads.
Johnson asked the student if he wanted to fight and, when the student said no, punched him on the side of the head, according to the complaint, citing the student.
The student fell and hit his head on a parked car’s bumper, the complaint reads. Two bystanders tried to intervene, one of whom held Johnson on the ground. Police eventually arrived, told the bystander to release Johnson, and arrested Johnson after a chase, according to the complaint.
Surveillance video taken from a nearby building shows Johnson striking the student, the complaint reads.
The hate crime charge alleges Johnson willfully injured the student because of the student’s actual or perceived race, according to the indictment.
CNN asked Johnson’s attorney Richard William Monahan for comment but did not immediately hear back.
Johnson pleaded guilty in October 2021 to state charges of misdemeanor assault and criminal intimidation in connection with the incident, and was sentenced to 360 days in a county jail, the US attorney’s office said.
If convicted of the federal hate crime charge, Johnson could receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years, the US attorney’s office said.