A 50-year-old Auburn woman faces a hate crime charge after she allegedly attacked another woman on a King County Metro bus in Kent for no apparent reason and used racial insults during the attack.
Cheryl Ann Coleman, who is Black, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge Dec. 21 in the GA courtroom of the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Coleman reportedly attacked a white woman on Sept. 19 while both were riding a Metro bus in Kent and called her “a white bitch” several times, according to charging documents filed Dec. 9 by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The white woman boarded a bus at about 1:27 p.m. on 104th Avenue Southeast near Southeast 240th Street in Kent, on the way to the Kent Station Transit Center.
Several minutes later, Coleman reportedly approached the woman and called her by a racial slur, according to charging papers. The woman told Coleman to get away from her. Coleman then raised her right arm in the air with her fist clenched and aggressively stepped into the compartment where the woman sat.
The woman stood up and tried to push Coleman away. Coleman then responded by punching the woman in the face, knocking her back down in her seat. Coleman then threw another punch that missed the woman as a passenger tried to intervene.
Coleman next got off the bus near East Smith Street and State Avenue North.
King County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to reports of a passenger assault on a bus and received a description of the suspect.
A few minutes later, one of the deputies saw a woman matching the description standing in the roadway smoking a cigarette. The woman was later identified as Coleman. The deputy asked Coleman what happened on the bus and she responded that a “white bitch” tried hitting and kicking her for no apparent reason. She admitted to punching the woman in the face while they were on the bus.
Deputies used on-bus video and audio to help confirm details of the attack that the victim had described.
After deputies arrested Coleman and placed her in a police vehicle, she struck her forehead against the metal divider in the car while screaming and swearing on the way to the county jail. She called the Black deputy in the car another “Uncle Tom,” and the reason why “white people are getting ahead.”
Hate crimes on the rise
The case marked the 56th hate crime in the county so far this year, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. In all of 2019, 38 hate crime cases were filed.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Bannick, who focuses on hate crimes, explained during a media interview Nov. 30 how prosecutors decide whether to file a hate crime charge.
It has to be blatant for a case to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.
“We look to people’s words,” Bannick said. “We look to people’s social media. We look to their actions and we look to also how the victim felt. We found we can get a lot of insight from talking to victims.”
Before 2019, the hate crime felony charge was called malicious harassment. That created confusion and was addressed by state lawmakers in 2019. The crime is the same, but it’s the name that changed, Bannick said.
“Calling something what it is also provides transparency and makes our system work better instead of using a confusing legal term,” Bannick said.