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Attempted robbery called hate crime

The owner of this  taco truck at Walton Avenue and Division Street was attacked while walking home late on April (Jesse Tinsley)
The owner of this taco truck at Walton Avenue and Division Street was attacked while walking home late on April (Jesse Tinsley)

Taco truck owner confronted as he was walking home

A man accused of trying to rob a Spokane taco truck owner may have targeted the victim because of his race, new court documents allege.

Michael A. Brewer, 22, has been charged under Washington’s hate-crime law after police say he yelled racial slurs while trying to rob Jonas J. Perez-Lopez at knifepoint last week.

Brewer is to be arraigned on charges of attempted first-degree robbery and malicious harassment April 13 in Spokane County Superior Court. He’s being held at Geiger Corrections Center on $7,500 bail after appearing in court this week.

Charging documents filed Monday accused Brewer of targeting Perez-Lopez because of “his perception of the victim’s race, color, (or) national origin.” Brewer declined an interview request.

Brewer and Tyrelle B. Bailey, 25, were arrested April 1 after Perez-Lopez said they attacked him as he walked near his truck counting money. Brewer yelled a racial slur and asked about the cash, then took out a pocketknife and ran toward him, Perez-Lopez told police.

Bailey was released from jail on his own recognizance April 2. He’s charged with first-degree attempted robbery but is not accused of harassing Perez-Lopez because of his race.

Bailey told police of the slurs and “denied any part in the incident,” according to court documents.

Police found a text message Bailey sent from his phone indicating he was about to fight “some Mexicans,” according to court documents, but Perez-Lopez identified Brewer as the man who yelled racial epithets as he approached with a pocketknife.

“I told this guy ‘I don’t want to fight.’ He almost got me right here,” Perez-Lopez said this week, pointing to his arm and neck.

Perez-Lopez said he’s never experienced discrimination in Spokane, where he’s lived for about seven years. He opened the taco truck at Division Street and Walton Avenue, Patty’s Tacos, about a year ago.

He lives just down the block on Walton. He said he’d never seen the men before, and he’s never felt threatened in the area.

Until their arrest, Brewer and Bailey lived about three blocks away on Walton with Brewer’s girlfriend’s mother. Brewer’s girlfriend, Christina Benzie, said her mother kicked the men out after the incident.

“When Michael gets really drunk he’ll open up his mouth and start problems with people,” Benzie said.

Brewer and Bailey arrived home late that night and looked like they’d been running, Benzie said. They said Perez-Lopez tried to run them over with his truck, but Benzie is doubtful.

“We’ve never had problems” with Perez-Lopez, she said. “I don’t see why he would start something.”

Perez-Lopez told police he ran to his home to call 911 after the attempted robbery and followed the suspects down Walton Avenue in a car.

Police seized two pocketknives from Brewer, according to court documents.