IRVINE (CBSLA) — A Lake Forest man faces a hate crime charge after allegedly kidnapping an Asian woman, believing she was white, with the intent to sexually assault her.
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Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, was arrested Thursday night at his home in Lake Forest. Irvine police say Rhee may have attacked a woman, believing she was white, in retaliation for the rise in hate crimes against Asian people.
Irvine police say an Asian woman was sitting in the driver’s seat of her car near her apartment Thursday afternoon when she looked up to see Rhee standing at the door, holding a handgun. She told police she did not recognize Rhee, who ordered her to get into the back of her car if she wanted to live.
The woman said she offered Rhee her wallet and money, and he replied they would “do that later,” before getting into her car through the passenger side door and pushed her into the backseat, according to police. She struggled with Rhee, who she told police began to grope her, then yelled to a maintenance worker nearby that he had a gun.READ MORE: Taylor's Blunder, Other Missed Chances Put LA In NLCS Hole
Police say Rhee got out of the car and ran through the apartment community, driving away in his own car. Surveillance cameras captured his license plate as he drove away, according to police.
A search of Rhee’s home turned up the vehicle linking him to the assault and a BB gun similar to the weapon described by the woman, Irvine police said.
Detectives believe Rhee — who is Korean — targeted the woman because he thought she was white, based on his own statements, and that the assault was in retaliation for hate crimes that have skyrocketed against Asian people.MORE NEWS: Karen Bass Officially Kicks Off Her Run For Mayor Of Los Angeles At Saturday Event
Anyone with information about the case or Rhee can contact Detective Haldor Larum at (949) 724-7194 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.