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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seattle fast-food worker charged with hate crimes against co-workers

By Sara Jean Green Seattle Times

SEATTLE – A 56-year-old Seattle man is accused of assaulting and berating his Spanish-speaking co-workers during a drunken rampage at a Wendy’s restaurant in Ballard, triggered by a customer who spoke Spanish as he placed his drive-thru order, prosecutors say.

Warren Michael Chapman was charged Wednesday with four hate crimes, accused of injuring four co-workers because of his perception of their race and national origin. He was also charged with fourth-degree assault for shoving the on-duty manager against a wall and punching her in the arm when she fired him, charging papers say.

The Seattle police officers who arrested Chapman on Sunday night in the parking lot of the Wendy’s restaurant in the 5600 block of 15th Avenue Northwest indicated he smelled of intoxicants, the charges say. He remains jailed in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Chapman previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for beating a man to death in a Seattle homeless encampment in late 2009, court records show. He was released from custody in October 2020 and was just four months shy of completing his required three years of community supervision, the state’s version of parole, when he was arrested Sunday, according to a state Department of Corrections spokesperson.

Given Chapman’s past murder conviction, the biased nature of his alleged rampage and the level of violence directed at several people, the state “has significant community safety concerns, especially for the members of our community he perceives to be of Mexican descent,” deputy Prosecutor Yessenia Manzo wrote in charging papers.

Under state law, a person commits a hate crime if he or she injures or threatens someone – or destroys a victim’s property – because of perceptions of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or mental, physical or sensory disability.

King County prosecutors have filed 19 anti-Latino hate crime cases since 2021, though hate crimes committed against members of the Latino community are significantly underreported, given immigration concerns and other barriers experienced by victims, said Casey McNerthney, a spokesperson for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“The anti-Latino cases are not all centered around targeting the victim’s language but targeting the perception of their national origin,” McNerthney said in an email.

“The specific national origin targeted in these cases is anti-Mexican – victims are assumed to be Mexican even when they are not.”

Chapman’s anti-Mexican tirade began when he tried to punch a DoorDash driver, who speaks only Spanish, through a drive-thru window, charging papers say.

A Spanish-speaking co-worker intervened, causing Chapman to turn on her and another co-worker, yelling and pointing his finger in their faces, say the charges. Another co-worker recorded the blowup, in which Chapman screamed expletives and said, “You don’t talk to me. If you don’t speak English, don’t talk to me,” charging papers say.

Chapman threw chairs that struck his co-workers, tore one woman’s jeans, took a man to the floor in a chokehold and punched another man in the head, the charges say. He chased one co-worker into the parking lot, where a Hispanic man confronted Chapman about his conduct, prompting Chapman to challenge him to a fight, according to charging papers.

Each of the co-workers Chapman targeted told police they had asked not to work with him because he often came to work intoxicated, refused to work while on the clock, and was disrespectful to Spanish-speaking employees and customers, the charges say.

“They told me they all wear headsets, and that when Chapman encounters a Spanish speaking customer, he tells them they can only speak English,” a detective wrote in charging papers. “They indicated that customers have left the store because Chapman has refused to serve them.

“Employees indicated that part of the reason they were video recording Chapman’s conduct on this date was to demonstrate to their management why they do not want to work with Chapman. The victims in this case have indicated they are very afraid of Chapman.”