NASHVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A recent hatchet attack near Bloomington against a high school exchange student from China is being investigated by the FBI as a possible hate crime to determine whether it warrants filing a charge of a federal civil rights violation.
Yue Zhang, 18, was struck with a hatchet Friday afternoon in downtown Nashville, about 20 miles east of Bloomington, as she was taking photos for a class project at Brown County High School. She told police that a man threatened her by saying something like, “I’m going to kill you,” and followed her before she felt something hit her back.
Zhang was taken to a hospital to be treated for a gash to her back, which was described as a serious injury that wasn’t considered to be life-threatening, and then released. The heavy coat she was wearing likely prevented a more serious injury, investigators said.
The hatchet used in the attack was found on Dana Ericson, 59, of Nashville, according to police. Ericson told officers that he’s a white supremacist, hates Asians and was hoping to kill the victim, police reported.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Ericson told police that he struck Zhang with the hatchet and said, “Is it a crime to strike evil?”
On Wednesday, the FBI opened a civil rights investigation into the attack to determine whether it was motivated by bias or prejudice, which would cause the incident to rise to the level of a hate crime.
“We will collect all of the facts and evidence and ensure the investigation is conducted in a fair and thorough and appropriate manner,” said FBI spokeswoman Cathy Burton.
If a hate crime determination is made, the U.S. Department of Justice will decide whether a federal charge should be pursued against Ericson, she said.
On Monday, Ericson pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery and battery causing serious injury. His bond was set at $500,000 and he was ordered not to have contact with the victim or her host family.
Ericson has a significant criminal history, according to court documents, and has struggled with mental health issues, including long stints in psychiatric hospitals throughout his adult life.
He’s due back in court for a mental health competency hearing April 11 in Brown Circuit Court.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.