MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Mountain View police have arrested a man suspected of a hate crime following a car crash on Sunday afternoon, although the man in question denies any wrongdoing and says he believes a language barrier might have contributed to a misunderstanding.
KTVU spoke with the suspect, 37-year-old Shamir Simmons, on Monday after he spent more than 16 hours in jail before being released on his own recognizance. He also said the charges he's facing, including hate crime, are unfounded. Simmons, who's Black and self-identifies as being Eritrean-American, said he suspects the situation escalated because he was rude to responding officers.
"They looked like a SWAT team was here just for a supposed accident report," Simmons said. He explained that he was backing into a parking space when he struck a van that had pulled up behind him.
"The driver, he looked at his vehicle, I looked at my vehicle. I said, ‘I’m so sorry. I don't see any damage on your vehicle. Can I give you some money for the inconvenience?'" he said. "Just so my insurance doesn't spike."
Simmons said there may have been a language barrier with the Hispanic couple in the van.
But police said they responded to reports of a crash at around noon on the 1600 block of Villa Street involving two vehicles. The caller told police the other driver involved in the collision became agitated after the crash and physically assaulted both the caller and his wife, who was a passenger in his vehicle.
The caller told police the driver of the other vehicle made racially charged statements about him and his wife, who are both Hispanic, police said. The man then fled on foot.
Officers arrived to investigate the crash. The assault victims told police the driver of the other car ran to an apartment complex on the 200 block of Chiquita Avenue.
That's where officers found Simmons. He was detained at his apartment.
"I did not put my hands on them in any way. I didn't threaten them and I didn't say anything racially to them," he said.
Police arrested Simmons on suspicion of driving under the influence, hit and run, battery, and for a hate crime as requested by the other driver and his wife involved in the crash.
Before Simmons was processed at Santa Clara County Jail, police took him to Mountain View Police Department for pre-processing, at which point police said, he threatened to kill an officer's wife and children.
Simmons, an employee of Mountain View Whisman School District, was subsequently arrested on suspicion of threatening officer.
Simmons said he was very nervous but did not threaten an officer.
A neighbor, who did not see what happened, defended Simmons.
"He is somebody that is a role model for the people that live in our area," said Stephanie Haddad.
Simmons said he's been employed with the school district for more than 11 years. He's a supervisor for at-risk kids at Theuerkauf Elementary.
"75% is of the Latin community. So to put that label on me is very disheartening," Simmons said, adding that he's concerned about losing his job.
Simmons is scheduled to be in court Sept. 30.
KTVU reached out the couple in the van, but has not heard back.