A San Diego man peladed not guilty Monday to charges, including a hate crime allegation, accusing him of attacking and harassing three Muslim women wearing hijabs in Little Italy.
Kyle Allen, 50, appeared before a judge for the first time, pleading not guilty to three counts of battery with an additional hate crime charge in connection with the Oct. 3 attack.
On that day, Allen walked past three women wearing hijabs on Columbia Street near Beech Street. Police said Allen shoved one of the women, slapped another woman and then tried to remove a hijab from one woman’s head. During this confrontation, Allen also allegedly made a racist remark.
A passersby followed Allen to his apartment and directed police to the area. When police knocked on Allen’s door, he answered the door holding a hand gun, police said. Allen complied with police and was taken to jail.
If Allen is convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 4 years and 4 months in prison. Though Trinh said more charges could be added.
That hate crime addition allows the three counts of battery to be classified as felonies instead of misdemeanors.
"Hate of any kind is something we take seriously and will prosecute to the fullest extent that we can,” Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh told NBC 7.
In court Monday, police said they found 10 guns inside Allen’s apartment. Because of protective orders served Monday, Allen will not get those firearms back, cannot possess firearms, and must stay away from the women - women his attorney told the judge he does not know.
“Mr. Allen is not a racist whatsoever. I know obviously with these allegations it looks that he may be that way. He’s not,” Allen’s lawyer, Kelly Armstrong, said.
Deputy DA Trinh said the alleged attack in Little Italy was not an isolated incident. His office has seen a disturbing rise in hate crimes.
"In San Diego County we've seen about a 40 percent increase over the last three years which is concerning, but with our law enforcement partners in our office and the city attorney and the U.S. Attorney's office, we're all committed to combating hate in San Diego County and so that's what we're doing,” Trinh said.
Allen is set to appear in court again in December. Until then, he'll stay out on bond.
Dustin Crawn with the Council on American Islamic Relations said, “I think that we have to consider the state of fear that people are in when someone like this is back on the street.”
Folks in Little Italy were alarmed by the reported hate crime so close to home.
“It sounds horrible,” resident Angelo Moulios said. “I think the times are boiling in a way in a lot of different areas of our society, only a matter of time before it boils over and people lose control.”
“It breaks my heart,” resident Shirley Altieri said. “I think he shouldn’t be out on bail.”