CHICAGO — A 57-year-old motorist apparently angered by “yuppies with dogs” allegedly yelled anti-Asian comments before slamming into group of friends enjoying a birthday picnic, seriously injuring a woman in Logan Square, witnesses and officials said.
The crash happened about 5:15 p.m. in the 2900 block of West Logan Boulevard when a red pickup truck jumped a curb and went up onto the grass median between inner and outer Logan Boulevard before hitting at least one adult pedestrian, a woman, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief Walter Schroeder and police spokesman Anthony Spicuzza.
She was taken in serious condition to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Schroeder said.
Her friends said a woman became briefly trapped under the truck, a Ford F-150, and said she was conscious and talking while being treated at the scene. She was released from the hospital late Saturday night, her friend Rob Lopez said Sunday morning.
The group of friends — about 10 people, some with dogs — said the man argued with them briefly before attacking them, angered by the presence of “yuppies with dogs” on the boulevard.
One of the people in the group said the man shouted anti-Asian comments at a member of the party before gunning the truck toward them.
The incident was being investigated as a crime, not a hate crime specifically, said a Chicago police spokesman, who was citing preliminary information that could change. While the motive is under investigation, a recent study by monitoring groups has shown an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in U.S. cities, perhaps driven by COVID-19′s origin in China, and sparking concern and protests by Asian Americans and allies.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. An “interfaith rally” to denounce racism and crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, commonly abbreviated as AAPI, was organized by leaders of various religious communities and was to be held at noon Sunday in Uptown.
“All Uptown churches, temples and synagogues have been invited to contribute to the planning as well as Uptown’s Asian American community organizations,” according to a news release for the event.
Charges against the man were pending as of about 9 p.m.
There was a passenger in the truck, who was placed in handcuffs when police arrived, but witnesses couldn’t be sure if he had yelled at the group and police only reported one arrest — the driver.
Nick Lau, 33, a Logan Square resident who used to live just feet from the crash scene, told the driver “his unsolicited comments were unwelcome” and dismissively waved his hand at him.
At that point, according to Rob Lopez, another picnicgoer, the man yelled “f------ Asians” or “goddamn Asians” at Lau, who is Asian.
The comment escalated the arguing, and the man eventually hit the gas, hopped his truck over the curb and slammed into the picnic, striking and trapping the woman, witnesses said.
Lau said he did not hear or could not remember the alleged racial comment, but said he wasn’t initially antagonistic to the man, he simply wanted him to leave.
“I 100% heard ‘Asian’, that’s what kind of stood out,” Lopez said. “We’re a multicultural group, just hanging out. He said that, and that immediately — ‘f--- out of here, f--- off’ whatever,” Lopez said, indicating the comment angered him and elevated the shouting match. After striking their friend, the man attempted to flee, the picnicgoers said, gunning his engine.
A Yeti cooler trapped under the truck kept the spinning wheels from touching the ground and moving the truck forward, possibly saving their friend’s life and the lives of those surrounding the truck’s cab.
They said a pregnant woman was nearly struck by the vehicle. “We’re going to tell Yeti the cooler saved our friend’s life,” Lopez said.
The picnicgoers said they kept the motorist pinned in the cab when he tried to flee on foot before police arrived, within minutes, and took the man into custody.
Photos from bystanders apparently showed the man being placed in handcuffs with blood on his face.
Picnics, sunbathing, even concerts on the boulevard’s medians are commonplace during nice weather, and especially so during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Logan Square farmers market is held along the south side of the street during the summer and fall.©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.