Tucson police have arrested a man who they say attacked a group of Muslim girls sitting at a Starbucks on University Boulevard.
44-year-old Manuel Lewis was arrested Sunday, Jan. 14, around 9 p.m. in an alley behind the coffee shop in Main Gate Square.
Officer Chris Hawkins said Lewis had knives on him when he shouted racial slurs and anti-Muslim derogatory comments at seven women sitting on the patio outside the coffee shop.
According to witnesses and police, Lewis also flipped over their table and broke one of the women’s phone.
“He ran and pushed into their table,” said Joseph Witzke, who captured Lewis’ arrest on his cell phone. “A couple of the girls fell down. He threw their table over.”
Lewis took off after the attack and Witzke said witnesses chased Lewis down and detained him until officers got there a few minutes later.
“It was a lot to process,” Witzke said. “‘Should I let him go? Should I chase him? What is really happening here?’ But then I had seen these girls and they’re crying and freaking out. So I felt like we couldn’t just let him [get] away after what he did.”
Lewis was booked on seven counts of disorderly conduct, two counts of assault with no injuries and two counts of criminal damage.
We’ve been told this has happened before - that Lewis specifically shouted derogatory comments nearby at Sinbad’s Restaurant, a middle-eastern food establishment in the area.
Amna Al Qaisi, the owner of Sinbad’s Restaurant, said she has had problems with Lewis in the past. She said he has come up to her and yelled derogatory comments before he was chased off by her son.
Al Qaisi talked about the horror those young girls at Starbucks must have gone through. She even went so far as to say what Lewis did was an act of terror.
“Yes, especially with carrying the knife. It is so bad. And for the women - for the women - impossible. They are very peaceful. Why he did it? They are schoolkids,” she said.
Lewis’ charges for Sunday’s incident are misdemeanors. That could change if prosecutors decide to add hate crime charges.
Hawkins said general hate speech does not amount to a hate crime in Arizona and that investigators need to have a reasonable belief the comments and actions were correlated.