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Florida man charged with a hate crime after he allegedly tore off a postal worker’s hijab and punched her, police say

A man has been charged with a hate crime after he allegedly “made his hand into the shape of a firearm and made a shooting gesture” toward a US Postal Service worker near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, then ripped off her hijab and slapped and punched her in the face, according to police and court documents.

The alleged attack on the postal worker comes as incidents inspired by hate against Muslims and Jews escalate in the US following the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

In Wilton Manors, Florida, Kenneth Jerome Pinkney, 47, approached the uniformed postal worker, who has not been named publicly, on October 24 while she walked up to a home delivering mail, a probable cause affidavit states. He rode his bike past the victim and made a “shooting gesture” with his hand, then called her derogatory names and told her “to go back to her country,” it states.

The postal worker tried to laugh the comments off, according to the probable cause statement, but Pinkney approached her and ripped off her hijab – a headscarf worn by many Muslim women for religious or cultural reasons – and began to slap and punch her in the face.

She bled from her mouth and got scratches on her face, the affidavit states.

Then, as the victim tried to get back in her US Postal Service truck, Pinkney tried to grab her leg, the affidavit says. She ripped Pinkney’s shirt as she tried to free herself and told him she was going to call the police – then he said he would do the same, it says.

Pinkney was arrested and charged with battery and “evidencing prejudice while committing an offense” based on his remarks about “the victim’s ancestry, religion, and national origin,” a felony hate crime, according to the probable cause affidavit and court records.

Police who responded to the scene also found, “Pinkney was unable to provide any details regarding the incident without losing track of his story,” according to the probable cause affidavit.

The court has ordered him to undergo a mental health screening, the docket shows.

“Fort Lauderdale Police Department presented their investigative findings in this case to the Broward State Attorney’s Office,” Paula McMahon, public information officer for Broward State Attorney’s Office, told CNN in a statement Wednesday.

After reviewing all the evidence, facts and circumstances, prosecutors filed formal charges on Tuesday of felony battery/hate crime, a second-degree felony that carries a maximum possible penalty of up to 15 years in state prison, McMahon said.

Pinkney was held as of Wednesday at the Broward County Sheriff’s North Broward Bureau jail on $20,000 bond, jail records show. CNN has reached out to the Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which court records show is representing him.

CNN has also reached out to the US Postal Service.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Florida chapter welcomes the hate crime charge against Pinkney, it said. As the conflict in the Middle East has flared over the past month, Muslim and Arab groups across the United States have reported a rise in vandalism, threats and violence, including the stabbing death of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy near Chicago under investigation as a federal hate crime.

“This alleged violence and hate have absolutely no place in Florida,” CAIR-Florida Media and Outreach Director Wilfredo Amr Ruiz said in a statement. “We will make sure to follow up on this and any other case to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent to deter others from engaging in this criminal anti-social behavior targeting anyone, regardless of their race or religion.”

CAIR-Florida and the American Muslim community stand in solidarity with all those challenging antisemitism, systemic anti-Black racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, White supremacy and all other forms of bigotry, Ruiz said.

CNN’s Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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