An Anoka County prosecutor said Friday that authorities are looking into possible hate-crime counts against a woman charged with attacking a diner at the Coon Rapids Applebee’s because she was speaking Swahili.
The victim suffered deep cuts to her face when she was struck with a beer mug Oct. 30 as she ate lunch with her husband and friends, Anoka County authorities said this week.
Jodie Burchard-Risch, 43, of Ramsey, was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with third-degree assault.
On Friday, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) called for hate-crime charges against Burchard-Risch.
“The current charge is insufficient to communicate the seriousness of and possible bias motive for the alleged attack,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein said Friday in a news release.
Hussein said CAIR believes the incident is part of a rise in hate-motivated crimes and bias incidents nationwide targeting persons and property associated, or perceived to be associated, with Islam.
Paul Young, criminal division chief of the Anoka County attorney’s office, said an investigation that could lead to possible further charges is already underway.
“We are absolutely considering additional charges and potential factors that can enhance sentencing,” he said. “We are trying to make sure we have all the evidence. … To prove the case, we would have to show additional elements that it was motivated and done because of a person’s real or perceived status.”
Young said his office charges a few hate crimes each year. “We share everyone’s concerns,” he said. “No one should be a crime victim because of language or ethnicity.”
According to the complaint filed Monday, Burchard-Risch was dining with her husband when she overheard the woman, who was sitting in a nearby booth, speaking in a language that wasn’t English. “[Burchard-Risch] and her husband were upset that [the victim] was speaking in a foreign language,” the complaint said. She began to yell at the woman.
Restaurant managers tried to get Burchard-Risch to leave, but she refused. She continued to shout at the victim and then threw a drink on her, according to the complaint.
Burchard-Risch then smashed her beer mug across the victim’s face in a “round house punch” motion before fleeing, causing significant injuries, according to the complaint.
An Applebee’s manager followed Burchard-Risch until Coon Rapids police officers caught up with her and arrested her.
The victim, who immigrated to the United States from Kenya, where Swahili is one of several common languages, suffered deep cuts on her nose, right eyebrow and lower lip, according to the complaint.
Burchard-Risch’s next court date will be Dec. 7.
In 2011, she pleaded guilty to an assault charge.
Staff writer Karen Zamora contributed to this report.