Police investigating threatening letters sent to Asian Americans in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Asian Americans in Salt Lake County say they are being targeted because of their race.

One voicemail was recently left on an Asian American restaurant’s voicemail saying, “Go **** yourself.”

Many other Asian Americans in the Salt Lake Valley say they are receiving letters of hate.

“In the letter, it states that Asians need to go back to wherever they came from or more Asians may be killed. Very disturbing honestly,” says Sergeant Melody Cutler with the Unified Police Department.

Unified Police got involved when an Asian-owned business in Taylorsville got the letter mailed to them on March 20.

ABC4 is not naming the business because they fear retaliation.

The owner shared the letter showing it came from Salt Lake.

“And the reality is, if there are multiple of these out there, that multiple counts of this crime and we would like to find that person, and each one of those letters may have potentially different evidence,” says Sgt. Cutler.

This is the first case of Asian hate the Unified Police Department has dealt with since the pandemic started.

Sgt. Cutler says the U.S. Postmaster is involved in the case because the letter was mailed. She also says forensics are scoping the letter for any type of evidence.

“These are threats towards a group. It’s a hate crime. We take these things seriously, we want them reported,” she says.

Dustin Watkins is the Co-founder of Database. He says one of his brother’s employees and a personal family friend who is Vietnamese got one of the letters slid under her apartment door.

“To me, it was purposely pushed under her door, and other people on her floor all received the same letter, all Asian race,” he says.

Watkins says the woman is doing better because of the community’s support.

“I feel like it is important to stand up for what you believe and I think a hate crime against any race, regardless of what it is, is not right.”

Salt Lake City Police say they have no reported Asian American hate crimes for the last decade but know they happen.

“We need people to report things. We need witnesses, we need victims to come forward because we don’t want somebody else to get victimized,” says Detective Michael Ruff.

Local police say they’re on high alert after seeing Asian attacks across the country. Many bystanders wondering, how can they intervene?

“We would always recommend that somebody call us,” says Det. Ruff. “That should be the first thing, get us coming, be a good witness, you know if there is a way to film it, you know it kind of goes back to that see something, say something.”

University of Utah’s Director for Student Wellness Brittany Kiyoko Gleed recommends three important things with bystander intervention.

Be Direct

“Where you actually see the harm being caused and you directly ask the person, ‘are you ok?’ You know, ‘can I be of support?’ Or, if you feel comfortable and safe, actually calling out the behavior of the person who is making that comment, says Kiyoko Gleed. Letting them know it is not ok, it’s inappropriate and harmful.

Delegate Roles

“Maybe you’re with someone else and you can do a buddy system where one of you is interrupting the harm, the other person is going in to check on the person that’s been targeted and try to separate the two if possible,” she says.

Distract

“You can pretend that you’re the fake friend, going up to the person and letting them know like, ‘Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. How is it going?’ Just being really quick interrupting the harm in a very benign way,” she adds.

Kiyoko Gleed says each of these things is important when it comes to bystander intervention.

“What we do know from the research is that the more people that are witnessing an event, the less likely they are to actually intervene,” says Kiyoko Gleed. “We all have a responsibility to each other, to keep each other safe, to be a good neighbor, and being able to practice bystander intervention skills is a piece of that.”

Police officers tell ABC4 it’s up to the individual person if they want to get involved in a situation of a potential hate crime in progress, but it’s more important to call them to get officers there.

If you received one of the letters in this report, you’re asked to contact the Unified Police Department.

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