‘Every single window was smashed:’ Asian-owned San Jose businesses targeted
A suspect smashed the windows and glass of Seven Leaves Cafe. Photo courtesy of Vinh Pham, co-owner of Seven Leaves Cafe.

San Jose Police identified Tai Van Trinh as the suspect responsible for vandalizing multiple businesses in San Jose and Milpitas on April 22.

Trinh, who hasn’t been caught, allegedly smashed the glass door and windows of at least five businesses Asian-owned businesses in San Jose, including Tastea, Lee’s Sandwiches and Seven Leaves Cafe, in the Berryessa neighborhood. The incidents happened between 3:15 a.m. and 6 a.m., police officials said.

“It just makes me feel extremely heartbroken that there are people out there who would do such a thing,” said Vinh Pham, co-owner of Seven Leaves Cafe. “I saw that every single window was smashed and I was just in awe.”

The latest incident only rubs salt on the wound for the businesses as Seven Leaves Cafe and Lee’s Sandwiches have seen a decline in sales by about 50 percent during the shelter-in-place order.

“It’s adding more to the overall cost, stress and headache. It’s creating fear and worry for our customers and employees,” said Thang Le, co-owner of Lee’s Sandwiches.

Based on preliminary investigation, police said there is no indication that the incidents are hate motivated crimes. And Le says he sympathizes with the suspect, suggesting that the suspect and his family could be enduring a hardship, which prompted him to vandalize the businesses.

Still, the incident has left him shocked.

The suspected vandalized the glass windows and doors of Lee’s Sandwiches in Berryesa. Photo by Thang Le, co-owner of Lee’s Sandwiches.

Despite the vandalism, Seven Leaves Cafe is open for business and owners repaired the glass windows and doors the same day as the incident. It’s also providing free bubble tea and coffee for health care workers and first responders until April 24.

Lee’s Sandwiches in Berryessa also repaired its front doors and remains in business. And according to Le, another three Lee’s Sandwiches restaurants in San Jose and Milpitas were also vandalized.

Thi Tran, a resident from the Berryessa neighborhood, denounced the incident.

“The country is living through surreal times,” said Tran, a law student at Santa Clara University. “It is important, more now than ever, for the Asian American communities, for our allies, for elected representatives to call these unconscionable acts for what they are — all at the same time combating them through education, solidarity and thoughtfulness.”

Local officials and law enforcement have decried hate crimes against Asians since the coronavirus outbreak. The San Jose City Council and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors this month passed resolutions to denounce xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment during the pandemic. The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office also pressed its first charge for a misdemeanor hate crime related to coronavirus. The District Attorney released a public-service announcement video last month condemning hate crimes during the public health crisis.

The Asian-American Pacific Islander Civil Rights Center launched a portal in March where victims can report discrimination, receiving more than 1,000 reports in the first two weeks.

Almost 100 cases of coronavirus discrimination are being reported daily across the country, according to an online reporting center launched by San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council.

“In this time of economic hardship and uncertainty when businesses are already hurting from decreased sales due to COVID-19, it is extremely upsetting that there are individuals who would set out to cause even further economic and emotional damage to our small business community,” said San Jose Councilmember Lan Diep, who represents the Berryessa area, in a statement Wednesday night.

San Jose Police officials are asking for the public’s assistance to locate Trinh, who drove a black 2004 extended cab Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck with the Texas license plate “HZM3285.”

Anyone with information is asked call 911, 311 or contact San Jose Police Detective Ryan Wagner of the Burglary Unit at (408) 277-4401.

Contact Nicholas Chan at nicholas4b@gmail.com or follow @nicholaschanhk on Twitter.

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