A New York man caught on video brandishing a gun and assaulting a Black woman who “bumped” his car in a traffic accident last month is now facing two hate crime charges stemming from the attack.
Jeffrey Calhoun, 62, appeared in court Tuesday where he was indicted on two felony charges of unlawful imprisonment and menacing — both as hate crimes — in addition to a count of assault and criminal impersonation of an officer, according to The Buffalo News.
Calhoun pleaded not guilty and was released on $75,000 bond.
The charges stem from a July 16 incident in which officials say the Lockhart man attacked Jeanneie Muhammad after she accidentally hit his car. Much of the incident was recorded by a neighbor, who rushed over when she saw Calhoun grab Muhammad, then bite her as she struggled to get away.
During the scuffle, witnesses also said Calhoun dragged the victim from her car and threw her to the ground. He even drew a his handgun.
“That’s when I just lost it,” neighbor Precious Santiaga told local station WBFO. “I jumped down all my steps. Ran across the street; I didn’t even look both ways. And they let me go across the street and I asked him why are you doing this to her?”
Calhoun is also accused of hurling racial slurs at Muhammad, who is Black and Muslim.
Police initially charged him with attempted robbery and menacing, as he refused to let go of Muhammad’s purse and keys during their dispute. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn amended the charges, however, as authorities continued their investigation.
“I firmly believe [that] race was a motivation here in Mr. Calhoun’s alleged actions,” Flynn told reporters after Calhoun’s hearing. “In this case here, the totality of the circumstances, the context of the entire incident with his use of the alleged racial slur is what I believe elevated it to a hate crime.”
He explained that the robbery charge was dropped because the suspect didn’t mean to permanently take Muhammad’s belongings. Rather, he was trying to keep her from leaving the scene.
According to The Buffalo News, this is the first time Flynn has charged a defendant with a hate crime during his three years as DA.
“Buffalo is a city of good neighbors. Buffalo is a city of love,” the prosecutor said. “When someone chooses hate, they have to face the consequences. Mr. Calhoun is now facing the consequences.”
Calhoun’s next court date is scheduled for Oct. 2.
If convicted, he faces up to seven years behind bars.