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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

July 7, 2009 at 5:45 PM

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Man charged with hate crime for threatening Muslim woman

Posted by Jennifer Sullivan

A self-proclaimed white supremacist with a history of threats and harassment was charged today under the state's hate crime statute after he allegedly threatened a young Muslim woman with a knife while she was waiting in line for services at the Seattle Indian Health Board, 611 12th Ave S.

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According to charging papers, Eric Lee Garner walked up to the woman on July 1, pointed at her head scarf and said, "you Muslim people scare people when you wear things like that!" He followed up with other derogatory remarks.

The woman, who was holding her six-month-old son, tried to reason with the 24-year-old Auburn man by saying that her "her clothing does not make her a bad person," court documents said. When the insults didn't stop, prosecutors said, the woman backed away from Garner and tried to shield her son from him.

Garner then cursed at the woman, got in her face and pulled out a large sheathed knife, court papers said. Garner told the woman he was going to "cut" the woman and her baby with the knife, charging documents said.

A health board employee then grabbed the knife and retreated behind the counter, prosecutors said. Garner jumped over the counter, grabbed the knife and ran out of the building.

Police spotted Garner just after 1 a.m. the following day as he was walking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Officers said he was carrying a knife. Without any questioning about the incident, Garner told the officers that he was a white supremacist "and was just doing his part," charging papers said.

Garner has prior convictions for felony harassment, trafficking, theft, violation of a domestic violence court order, assault, indecent exposure and drug possession. Garner is being held at the King County Jail on $100,000 bail.

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