Palo Alto police are investigating a suspected hate crime after a cyclist said a driver yelled a racial slur and then hit him with a truck.
The incident happened downtown on University Avenue last Thursday around 5:30 p.m. when a Black cyclist briefly veered into the street to avoid a car that was trying to park.
The cyclist told officers that’s when a man, driving a pick up truck, got very angry and things escalated quickly.
“Ultimately the driver in that argument spat on the victim, tried to grab him by the arm, said a racial epithet and then used his car to knock him off his bike,” said James Reifschneider of the Palo Alto Police Department.
The victim told police the truck then drove over his bike and took off. The cyclist suffered minor injuries to his legs.
Martha Reed said she walks in the area all time and is stunned to learn of the hit-and-run.
“I’m surprised and I hope that they fully prosecute the man that did this to the fullest,” said Reed.
Kaloma Smith, the chair of the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission said he’s not surprised. He says hate crimes have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic.
“What makes this troubling and a problem is that it happened in broad daylight. It happened on a main street and the person hit someone with a car and used the N-word,” said Smith.
He said he met with police to talk about the attack and his commission is taking steps to reduce all hate crimes in Palo Alto.
“We’ve created more hotlines to report hate crimes,” said Smith.
He said the commission is also working with the district attorneys office and the FBI to increase community education on the problem.
In the meantime, police are on the hunt for the suspect described as a blonde man in his 30s wearing a construction vest and driving a silver Toyota truck.