The Roque Family, with about 50 supporters, were at the Van Nuys Courthouse Friday, Aug. 19, at what was expected to be a preliminary hearing for Nicholas Weber, the man who the family said physically attacked them and threatened to kill them after he hit their car from behind as they waited in the drive-thru line at a McDonald’s in North Hollywood.
But, the large group who showed up in the early morning for the court proceeding in the early morning were disappointed to find yet another delay. The judge announced a new date was set for the preliminary hearing on Sept. 30, “to gather additional evidence.”
Outside the courtroom, the Roque family with many representing Filipino organizations held a news conference – they expressed their frustration with what they called a “lack of urgency from the justice system.”
Deputy District Attorney Paul Kim appeared during the conference and said additional interviews with the family would be collected and that his team would review an enhanced and slowed-down version of the video.
Community members of the group questioned why the evidence, which they maintain was immediately provided when the crime was committed last May, has been slow to be reviewed and the proceedings delayed. One member of the group pressed Kim to respond to that point.
“You know, these sorts of cases sometimes take time,” Kim said. “I mean, it could have been done and a lot of things could have been done. But the fact of the matter is it’s being done now.”
“It’s been approximately 30 days since our last court date,” said the Roque family Attorney Sandy Roxas, “Why now? What has been happening in the last 30 days?”
Kim was conciliatory, however, appearing to be in a public relations mode rather than offering hard information.
“I apologize on behalf of my office for any information you received that was inadequate or inaccurate,” Kim said. “Why don’t you just direct those requests directly to me moving forward? And I will make sure that whoever is assigned to your case as the victim advocate communicates with you more thoroughly because that’s something very important.”
Kim, in response to the Roques expressing dissatisfaction with Victims Services, which is run by the District Attorney’s office, said he was glad that the group shared that information with him.
Weber is currently charged with felony battery for the attack on Gabriel Roque and misdemeanor battery for the attack on his wife Nerissa Roque as well as a hate crime allegation. Weber spewed racial slurs prior to allegedly physically attacking the family.
“The Roque family believe a felony battery charge for the attack on Nerissa Roque more appropriately reflects the severity of the attack and are demanding that Weber be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Roxas.
The Roque family said the physical attack has been difficult to get over, and the emotional trauma has lingered.
Hate Crimes Surge In California
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Department of Justice released the incidents of hate crimes in California.
They reported hate crime offenses increased 42.1 percent from 1,563 in 2020 to 2,221 in 2021. Hate crime events increased 32.6 percent from 1,330 in 2020 to 1,763 in 2021. The number of victims of reported hate crimes increased 41.9 percent from 1,536 in 2020 to 2,180 in 2021.
Anti-Asian bias increased by more than 177 percent. “Anti-Asian was our largest increase but Anti-Black and Anti-African American represent nearly half of all racially motivated crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Alyson Lunetta.
The Department of Justice receives its data from law enforcement and the procedure is for the public to report hate crimes to the police.
Assistant Attorney General Michael Redding said if you or someone you know is a victim of a hate crime, you should “start with calling the local police. If it is something that needs to be elevated to a statewide agency, the local police would know or should know to do that.”
However, the Roque family and those who have been involved with their particular case are concerned that hate crimes and hate incidents may be underreported or can even be misreported.
Their case may be one example of one that would have fallen between the cracks had it not been for their persistence.
A spokesperson for the Roque family said following the physical attack, a bystander subdued Weber while it took 40 minutes for the police to arrive.
The spokesperson also said it took the police a month to file their report which was at first classified as a traffic incident rather than as an assault or a hate crime and the report was filed only after the family secured media coverage.
Filipino Organizations Are Steadfast With Support for the Roque Family
Organizations in support include the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Filipino Migrant Center, and Migrante Los Angeles. Representatives for the Philippine Nurses Association, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Neighborhood Safety Companions, and BAYAN SoCal have offered their support for the Roque family.
Members of those organizations have been following this case and have been attending the rallies and news conferences held by the Roque family. They view this case as an example of the hate incidents and crimes that have been inflicted on their community.
“We started out doing safety walks because of anti-Asian violence in Koreatown last year. And we’re still here, and it means so much to be here with everyone fighting this because we know this happens every single day, and people are not fighting back, but we’re fighting back here, and we’re going to make an example,” said a member of the Progressive Asian Network for Action.
“I am very grateful to your family for speaking up. Filipinos are not afraid, and we are speaking up, and we want to be heard. You have our nurses’ support,” says Catherine Rubio, member of the Philippine Nurses Association.
“As you can see, your presence, your voices, standing together in solidarity, really makes a difference,” said Roxas who urged supporters to keep attending to every court date, “So that the court, the staff and everyone knows we continue to stand with the families.”
“What we need more than ever is community support,” said Patricia Roque.
“These tough questions–they need to be asked,” said Roxas.
“So please continue to be here, bring other people with you, bring people of different colors with you so that we can stand here not just as Asian-Americans, but as everyone in this community.”