A Denver man who harassed two Korean American people at an In-N-Out Burger location in San Ramon, Calif., on Christmas Eve — a confrontation captured in a TikTok video by the victims while they were eating — was arrested by local authorities on Monday on two counts of committing a hate crime.
Jordan Douglas Krah, 40, is no longer in custody, a spokesperson for the San Ramon Police Department said in an email, and it was unclear whether official charges would be filed. A spokesperson for the Contra Costa County district attorney said the office had not gotten details about the case from the police department yet.
Arine Kim, a 20-year-old student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her friend Elliot Ha, also 20, a student at Duke University, were home for their holiday break and decided to try some off-menu items at In-N-Out on the night of Christmas Eve.
“We were just talking about life,” Ms. Kim, from Moraga, Calif., said. “It was good vibes over all.”
They were capturing their reactions and filming a TikTok video inside the restaurant when Mr. Krah approached them and asked if they were recording themselves eating. They said they were.
“You’re weird homosexuals,” Mr. Krah responded, the video showed, as a shocked expression spread on Ms. Kim’s face.
“I just want to eat my Flying Dutchman in peace,” Mr. Ha, of Livermore, Calif., said, referring to an off-menu item, consisting of two burger patties enveloping slices of cheese.
Moments later, Mr. Krah could be heard asking the pair whether they were Japanese or Korean.
When Mr. Ha responded and said that he was Korean, Mr. Krah said: “You’re Kim Jong-un’s boyfriend, huh?” referring to the leader of North Korea.
Then the tenor of the conversation appeared to take a sinister turn, with Mr. Krah heard on video describing himself as a “slave master” and using a homophobic slur. He is then heard on video saying that he would see the pair outside.
“My alarm bells were ringing,” Ms. Kim said. “And it was late at night, almost 11 p.m. at that point and it’s completely dark outside. I was just very scared.”
The video showed Ms. Kim and Mr. Ha, both increasingly flustered, attempting to disengage with the man and continue with their food review of the In-N-Out menu, as Mr. Krah stared at them from outside the restaurant’s window, according to Ms. Kim’s video caption and description.
Chief Denton Carlson of the San Ramon Police Department spotted the video, which circulated rapidly online and had been viewed more than 13 million times. He contacted the victims to begin an investigation, the police said in a news release.
The police said that Mr. Krah’s “homophobic and racist rant” made the victims concerned for their safety.
The number of hate crimes committed against Asian Americans and reported to the police has surged during the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a group formed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic that collects data on hate and harassment faced by the Asian American community, recorded more than 10,000 hate incidents in 2020 and 2021. Nearly half of reported events occurred in public places, the report found.
In nearly two dozen major cities, including Los Angeles, Houston, and New York, reported anti-Asian hate crimes rose by an average of 224 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to a report by the San Bernardino-based Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The total number, 369 hate crimes, was a record high, said Brian Levin, a professor at California State University in San Bernardino.
This year is on track to “far surpass” prepandemic levels of hate crimes experienced by Asian Americans, said Mr. Levin.
Mr. Ha and Ms. Kim said they are pressing charges, after initially hesitating because they had believed that the verbal attack would not be taken seriously by the authorities.
“This entire situation feels very surreal to me because I really didn’t think anyone would care,” Ms. Kim said, adding that there are “tens and thousands of people” who have faced similar hatred not captured on video.
Seeing the outpouring of support from others after the incident had helped “restore my faith in my humanity,” Mr. Ha said. He and Ms. Kim said that they hope others will be spurred to report acts of hate.
It was unclear whether Mr. Krah is represented by a lawyer.
After learning of Mr. Krah’s arrest, Ms. Kim and Mr. Ha returned to the same In-N-Out for a meal. Strangers, recognizing them from the TikTok video and news articles, paid for their order, they said.
“My burger tasted delicious,” Ms. Kim said.
This time, Mr. Ha stuck to his usual, a double-double.