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Suspect charged with hate crime in vandalism of Indian restaurant

Thuran Johnson (MDC)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque police have arrested a man for allegedly vandalizing an Indian restaurant over the holidays by breaking the windows with rocks and bottles, and leaving notes with racial slurs.

Thuran Johnson, 47, is charged with criminal damage to property over $1,000 with a hate crime enhancement in at least two separate incidents at the Taste of India restaurant over Christmas.

Johnson is also charged with attacking a health care worker on Monday during an intake for a mental health evaluation at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Johnson has since been booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center. It is unclear if he has an attorney.

Prosecutors have filed a motion to detain Johnson until trial, citing his “irrational and dangerous behavior,” along with his “determination to act violently” toward people he believes are of Indian descent.

“He has physically attacked a person due to his being Indian and has made many derogatory statements about Indians during other contacts with police,” the motion states.

In June, Johnson was charged with battery after allegedly asking a man what race he was, and punching and kicking the man when he didn’t answer.

The man he attacked is the one who came forward and helped police identify Johnson as a suspect in the restaurant vandalism after the story aired on local TV news.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court:

On Dec. 23, a detective was tasked with investigating ongoing vandalism at the Taste of India, near Juan Tabo and Indian School NE. In one incident, on Nov. 10, a person threw rocks through the window with notes that said “slumdog millionaires garbage” and “no shoes.”

The owners installed cameras and, on Dec. 11, captured a person in a BMW throw glass bottles through the windows as people ate inside. Then, on Christmas Day, a person in a BMW threw bottles through the window before throwing two large trash bags inside the restaurant.

The man who Johnson allegedly attacked in June came forward after seeing the vandalism covered on local news. The detective matched photos of Johnson and a description of his vehicle to the security camera footage.

Although there is no physical evidence to tie Johnson to the first two incidents, the detective believed “it is likely” he committed those, as well.

During his arrest, police say Johnson was suffering from a “mental health crisis.”

He told police that Indians had “stolen from Blacks” in his hometown of Chicago and the Taste of India restaurant stole the property from “Taste of Italy.”

Johnson then said Indians had broken his windows and thrown trash at his car, so he “retaliated.”

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