Erika Martin, KTLA, April 9, 2021
A man was arrested after attacking a woman in her car outside her Irvine apartment building, holding her hostage and attempting to sexually assault her in retaliation for recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, police said Friday.
Michael Sangbong Rhee, 37, of Lake Forest, targeted a woman sitting in her car outside her apartment in the area of Harvard Avenue and Coronado around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Irvine police said in a news release.
Rhee is accused of committing sexual battery against the woman as she struggled to escape, in fear of her life and safety.
The victim was able to shout to a nearby maintenance worker that Rhee was armed, prompting Rhee to leave her car and run through the apartment complex to flee in his vehicle, police said.
The woman he assaulted was of Asian descent herself, but detectives say they believe he targeted her because he thought she was white “based on the totality of the investigation and statements made by Rhee.”
Police say they will ask the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to file hate crime charges against Rhee because the attack was in retaliation for recent hate incidents targeting Asian Americans.