LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The wave of recent violence against the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community is now hitting closer to home. Police have arrested a woman for allegedly hitting a 6-year-old Asian American boy on the Las Vegas Strip earlier this month.
It’s a disheartening video for Sonny Vinuya, president of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce. The video posted on TikTok shows a woman ranting about China, and the poster says the woman hit her son for being Asian.
“Let alone a 6-year-old kid. It just amazes me how people can just have so much hate.”
The woman in the video has since been identified by Las Vegas police as 57-year-old Shelly Hill.
Hill was arrested on hate crime and battery charges. Her arrest report says she was caught on surveillance video backhanding a 6-year-old boy while he was walking with his family on the pedestrian bridge leading to The Shops at Crystals on July 5.
Officers say Hill allegedly told the family “coronavirus was all your fault” after hitting the boy. Vinuya says he’s not surprised to hear this rhetoric.
“It’s a common theme of what we’ve been seeing from people who’ve been doing this bad behavior, no matter if you’re Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, or anything,” he said.
Hate incidents in general against the AAPI community have been infrequent in Nevada.
The nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate has compiled 38 incidents reported since March 2020, most of them verbal incidents. It’s much lower than states like California or New York, which have experienced a rising number of violent attacks against Asian Americans.
Vinuya says it’s a good thing incidents like this are rare here in Nevada. But when it does happen, it can be jarring.
“This is what we’ve been always afraid of. The escalation part and that’s the reason why we’ve been working so hard with other leaders in the community to kind of nip this in the bud," he said.
Some on social media argue it appeared the alleged assault may be more of an issue with mental health. Vinuya says that should be addressed— but there also must be accountability for her words and actions.
“People can still have mental issues, but they have to be accountable for the actions that they take,” he said.
He’s grateful for the work of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and feels the agency is taking this case seriously.
“Here they are, arresting this lady, charging them with hate crimes and battery,” he said.
We did reach out to the poster of the TikTok video and she says she’s not ready to speak at this time.
Hill is set to be back in court on July 27.