Arrest made in possible DC hate crime against Asian business owner

One month after an Asian business owner was assaulted in his own store in Northeast D.C., police have made an arrest in the case.

Samuel Delwyn Thomas, 30, of Cockeysville, Maryland, was arrested Thursday and charged with aggravated assault, according to D.C. police.

“The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating this offense as potentially being motivated in whole or in part by hate or bias,” police said in a statement.

Thomas is accused of punching Chong Hu Lu in the face on May 4 after getting into an argument with him inside Max Trading Corp., Lu’s jewelry store in the 1300 block of 4th Street near Florida Avenue by Union Market.

The assault was captured on surveillance video.

Lu told WTOP news partner NBC Washington that the suspect yelled “F*** you, Chinese people,” during the attack.

Lu’s wife, Cong Cong Hu, stepped in and tried to help, telling NBC Washington: “I was so scared.”

“What if the guy go crazy, have a gun or knife? I don’t know what would happen,” said Hu.

Lu said he received 14 stitches on his lip after the incident sent him to a hospital.

Numerous hate crimes have been reported against Asians across the D.C. region and nationwide over the past year, after the coronavirus pandemic originated in China.

Yunhan Zhang, who runs Valley Brook Tea near Dupont Circle, was pepper-sprayed inside his business in November 2020 by someone who was cursing and yelling about COVID-19.

WTOP has reached out to D.C. police for an update on that case, asking whether any arrests have been made and whether possible hate crimes charges have been filed.

Anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in 15 of America’s largest cities and counties rose 169% in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the same period of time in 2020, according to a recent study released by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

“This year’s first quarter increase follows an historic surge in anti-Asian hate crime that started last year,” researchers said. “In 2020, anti-Asian hate crime increased 146% across 26 of America’s largest jurisdictions.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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