LOS ANGELES – A Diamond Bar man pled guilty today to a federal criminal civil rights charge for disrupting a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in March 2021 by running a red light and driving through a crowded crosswalk of peaceful demonstrators while shouting racial slurs and epithets.
On the third day of trial, Steve Lee Dominguez, 57, pleaded guilty to one felony count of bias-motivated interference with federally protected activities.
“The right to political expression is a bedrock principle of this nation,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Mr. Dominguez’s decision to attack a peaceful rally meant to raise awareness of anti-Asian hate was both unlawful and un-American. My Office will remain steadfast in our commitment to safeguard civil rights against those who would seek to undermine our constitutional rights.”
“The FBI safeguards the civil rights of all Americans, including the constitutionally protected right of free speech, but that right ends where violence begins,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “We will continue to work with our partners to address these types of violations, where individuals who were simply calling for an end to violence were senselessly attacked.”
“Hate has no place within Los Angeles County, and those that commit acts of hate and interfere with the civil rights of others will be held accountable,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna. “The Sheriff’s Department is focused on combatting hate crimes and hate incidents in our diverse communities and increasing our outreach efforts to better understand the needs of the victims and educate the public on how to report such crimes.”
According to a plea agreement filed in federal court, a “Stop Asian Hate” rally occurred on March 21, 2021 in Diamond Bar. The rally was to raise awareness about the increase in hate crimes and hate incidents against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community both locally and nationally – including the murders of six Asian American women five days earlier in Atlanta.
A group of rally participants assembled at the intersection of Diamond Bar Boulevard and Grand Avenue, carrying American flags and large signs in support of their cause. The demonstrators peacefully gathered and lawfully crossed the streets using the marked pedestrian crosswalk when they had the right of way.
During the rally, Dominguez was driving a black Honda Civic sedan and was stopped at a red light at the intersection. Dominguez yelled, “Go back to China!” and other racial slurs and profanities at the demonstrators. He then deliberately drove his car through the intersection’s crosswalk at the red light, made an illegal U-turn into oncoming traffic, and cut off the route of several rally participants lawfully crossing the street, primarily women and a young child.
One of the victims was an Asian woman carrying a sign that read, “Stop Asian Hate.” Another victim was a minor Black female rally participant who carried a sign that read, “End the Violence Against Asians.” Another person who was cut off in the crosswalk was a 9-year-old child, and Dominguez’s car narrowly missed her and other victims. No injuries were reported.
Dominguez then pulled his car over, got out of the car and continued to yell racial epithets – including the n-word – and threats at the demonstrators. He then called the police, identified himself as “John Doe” and falsely reported to police that the rally participants were blocking the street and he had to run a red light “because they were about to trample my car,” according to evidence presented at trial. He also requested that police “get some control out” at the intersection.
United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II scheduled a May 6, 2024 sentencing hearing, at which time Dominguez will face up to one year in prison pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement. Dominguez has remained free on a $30,000 bond since his initial arrest in May 2022 and will remain on bond until sentencing.
The FBI investigated this matter. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to the scene and assisted in this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Frances S. Lewis of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Suria M. Bahadue of the Criminal Appeals Section are prosecuting this case.
Any member of the public who has information related to this incident or other hate crimes is encouraged to call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565 or report tips online at https://tips.fbi.gov.