Police: Man attacked Asian woman, believing she was white, over anti-Asian hate crimes

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (KCAL/KCBS) - A California man faces a hate crime charge after allegedly kidnapping an Asian woman, believing she was white, with the intent to sexually assault her. Detectives say he sought retaliation for anti-Asian hate crimes.

Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, was arrested Thursday night at his home. He later posted a $100,000 bond and was released from jail.

Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, faces a hate crime charge. After his arrest, he posted a $100,000 bond and was released from jail.
Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, faces a hate crime charge. After his arrest, he posted a $100,000 bond and was released from jail. (Source: City of Irvine Police, KCAL/KCBS via CNN)

Rhee is accused of attacking an Asian woman Thursday afternoon as she sat in her car near her Irvine, California, apartment community. Officials say he had a gun, threatened the woman’s life and tried to sexually assault her.

Police say after the woman yelled to a nearby maintenance worker that Rhee had a gun, he fled the scene. A license plate reader captured his information 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, police say.

Detectives believe Rhee, who is Korean, targeted the woman because he thought she was white, and the crime was motivated by his desire to seek retaliation for the rise in hate crimes targeting the Asian community.

When Rhee was arrested, his bail was set at $1,000,000.

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