A Madison man was arrested last week and charged with a hate crime in an assault on an Asian student on the UW-Madison campus last month.
A PhD student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Madison365 in an interview Wednesday that he was walking near the Nicholas Recreation Center on October 16 when a man swatted his phone out of his hand from behind, shattering the phone screen on the ground. At first, he assumed it was accidental, but said when he turned, a man called him an ethnic slur and seemed ready to fight. He was able to pick up his phone and leave the scene, and called police from his apartment.
Court documents say UW police were able to view video from university-owned cameras to follow the suspect, a Black man, to Walgreens on State Street, where private surveillance video showed the suspect shoplifting a number of small items. According to a criminal complaint, both a UW police officer and Madison Police Department officer were able to identify the suspect, who was arrested November 3.
Court documents indicate Gary Stephens, 35, has been charged with disorderly conduct as a hate crime, criminal damage to property and three counts of bail jumping. Records indicate he had been arrested on disorderly conduct charges and released on signature bond prior to the October 16 incident.
Court records indicate Stephens posted cash bond on November 8 and is due in court for a pretrial conference on December 9.
Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States have been on the rise, but the victim in this incident said he has not experienced such discrimination in Madison.
“The people (in Madison) have been fine and nice, and most of them are very friendly,” he said, though he did face discrimination in Minneapolis while earning his master’s degree.
“There would be students who say something impolite to us when we walked on the street,” he said.
He said he was satisfied with the way police handled the situation, and is not afraid to walk on campus — but he now keeps his phone in his pocket.