Man indicted on hate crime, robbery charges in Montgomery Co. grocery store assault

The man charged with knocking a grocery shopper unconscious and stealing his keys in a Gaithersburg, Maryland, Giant store last month has been indicted on hate crime and robbery charges.

Eugene Thompson, 19, was indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury on Feb. 23, on a felony count of robbery and a felony hate crime charge.

The attack happened Jan. 25, at the Giant Food grocery store at 18250 Flower Hill Way, according to police.

Charging documents said the man told Montgomery County police that while shopping, he noticed a group of young men stealing fruit and throwing doughnuts. When he asked them to stop, a confrontation ensued.

When the shopper took off his coat to defend himself, the suspects noticed his Star of David chain, and taunted him. According to the charging documents, Thompson put up his hands in a fighting stance and then stated something along the lines of, “Let’s go, f—— Jew.”

After Thompson began throwing punches, the man said he heard another member of the group shouting, “Yeah, do it for Kanye,” in an apparent reference to the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who has made several well-publicized antisemitic remarks.

Police said Thompson was arrested at a nearby McDonald’s with the victim’s car keys.

Maryland has updated its hate crime laws in recent years.

In 2020, Maryland lawmakers passed new legislation, three months after a judge threw out a hate crime charge against the white man convicted of fatally stabbing Black Army officer 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III on the University of Maryland campus.

At that time, Maryland’s hate crime law stated that prosecutors were required to prove specifically that the motive was hate.

“You no longer are required, in a hate crime, to prove that the exclusive motivation was because of the person being a member of a protected class,” State’s Attorney John McCarthy said, after Thompson’s arrest. “It has to be part of the motivation.”

When Thompson was arrested, police initially listed his age as 30. However, court records indicate he is 19. Police also said Thompson gave officers a fictitious name — Michael Stewart.

He is being held without bond until his next hearing on March 3.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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