President Bush's admonition last week to those who would commit hate crimes came too late to stop Payson resident Richard Paul Hughes II from being arrested for just such an incident only hours after Tuesday's attack on New York and Washington by suspected Arab terrorists.
Last week, President Bush said: "... Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab-Americans who live in New York City, who love their flag ... and we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve. I know that is your attitude as well certainly the attitude of this government: that we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror."
If the 25-year-old Hughes had been similarly mindful, he might not have landed in the Payson jail Tuesday night, facing a pair of serious charges made more serious by the "hate crimes" designation.
According to Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner, the victim had given Hughes a ride home after visiting a mutual friend. When the two reached Hughes' residence, Hughes exited the victim's car, walked around to the driver's side, and "punched the front windshield, cracking it," Gartner said, reading from the police report.
As the victim began backing the vehicle away from the residence, Gartner said, Hughes picked up a rock and threw it through the rear driver's-side window, smashing it completely.
Hughes then began to yell at the victim, calling him "Arab," and saying, "it's your (expletive) fault what happened in New York and Washington D.C."
The victim left the scene, drove to a gas station and called the police.
Earlier in the day, the victim had called police dispatchers to say that a man named Richard Hughes "had called and threatened to kill" the victim "because he was an Arab," Gartner said.
"Hughes had also called dispatch to say the same thing, and identified himself as Richard Paul Hughes during that call," the police chief added. " ... He said he was going to take care of the situation because of the incidents in New York and Washington D.C. ... Our guys tried to track it down, but it was a cell-phone call, so we had a hard time with that."
Hughes was arrested and faces two charges: Class 6 felony criminal damage, and threatening and intimidating with a "hate crimes" designation that would likely increase the severity of Hughes' sentence should he be found guilty, Gartner said.
Hughes is now being held in Globe on a $500 bond.
In related news, a Mesa man accused of fatally shooting an Indian immigrant and firing at other minorities during a Saturday rampage targeted the victims because of their race, the Maricopa county attorney said yesterday.
Frank Roque, 42, was formally charged Monday with first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of drive-by shooting. He was held in lieu of $1 million bond. The killing of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh, outside the Mesa gas station he operated, has generated international protests and a call to President Bush by India's prime minister.