Austin Police investigating stabbing of pro-Palestinian demonstrator as hate crime
Austin Police are investigating a stabbing near the UT campus over the weekend as a hate crime.
Zacharia Doar, 23, was grabbing a bite to eat with three of his friends Sunday after attending a rally in support of Palestinian rights and calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
The group said they were near the intersection of Nueces Street and West 26th Street when a man riding a bike tried to rip a flagpole with a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf reading "Free Palestine" off their truck.
The victims told police the man, who has been identified as 36-year-old Bert James Baker, repeatedly screamed the N-word and other obscenities at them, opened the passenger door and pulled one man out of the truck and attacked him. The three others got out to fight him off. Baker then allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed Doar in the chest, breaking one of his ribs.
Police responded to a call and arrested Baker. He was taken to the Travis County Jail and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Nizar Doar said his son is recovering and urged police and prosecutors to charge Baker with a hate crime. Members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, are calling for the same.
“This hate that is going around needs to stop,” Doar said at a news conference Tuesday.
Mustafaa Carroll, interim director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of CAIR, said on behalf of the national chapter that “far too many incidents of violence against Muslims, Palestinians and others who support Palestinian human rights have occurred over the past several months. Those responsible for this violence must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and those fomenting the hate that leads to this violence must be condemned."
In a written statement, police officials said once the hate crimes review committee looks over the details of the case, the information will be provided to the Travis County District Attorney's Office and/or the County Attorney's Office. It is up to the prosecuting office to upgrade the offense to a bias-motivated crime.
The Travis County DA's Office said it was awaiting APD's investigation.
"Our hearts continue to break for the victim of this senseless attack and their family. The Travis County District Attorney’s office does not tolerate acts of hate in our community and is committed to holding people who commit these crimes accountable," a spokesperson said. "Since 2021, our office and the Austin Police Department have successfully partnered to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in our community, and we proudly partner on our community’s Hate Crimes Task Force."
APD said it condemns all forms of crime, especially those motivated by bias or discrimination.
“Our department is committed to keeping our community safe and inclusive for all,” the department stated. “We will continue to work to ensure that our community is a place where everyone feels valued and respected.”
In July, the city launched an anti-hate campaign called “We All Belong.” The effort encourages residents to report hate crimes and incidents through online resources and tools.