Palo Alto, CA – Police arrested a man on Friday morning in downtown Palo Alto after two separate incidents where he approached men seated in their cars and committed crimes against them.
No one was physically injured. Police booked the suspect into jail for multiple charges, including a hate crime.
On Friday, March 3, 2023, at about 9:29 a.m., our 24-hour dispatch center received a call reporting a possible brandishing of a knife that had just occurred near the 200 block of University Avenue. The victim, a man in his forties originally from Azerbaijan, also reported that the suspect had told him, “Go back to your country.”
Police arrived on scene about one minute later and contacted the suspect in the 500 block of Emerson Street. The suspect did not obey verbal commands and then ran from officers. Police were able to apprehend him a short distance away in Lytton Plaza and arrested him after a brief struggle. Neither the suspect nor any officers sustained physical injuries.
The investigation revealed that the victim had been sitting in his vehicle parked in the 400 block of Emerson Street when the suspect parked his vehicle, a white 2017 GMC van, in front of him. The suspect got out of his van and approached the victim’s car. The victim did not know the suspect and had not had any prior interaction with him. The suspect started banging on the victim’s driver side window with a black object that the victim believed was a pocketknife. The suspect accused the victim of following him and yelled at him to “Go back to your country,” “We don’t want to see you here,” and “Leave our country.” The victim started to roll down his window with the intent to ask the suspect what his problem with him was. The suspect then spat in the victim’s face. The victim drove a block south to get away from the suspect and parked again, but the suspect followed him in his van. The victim called police.
Police searched the suspect’s van and found brass knuckles (wrapped in black electrical tape) inside the driver’s door. No knife was found. The brass knuckles had the appearance of a folded pocketknife, and police believe they were what the suspect had been holding at the time he accosted the victim.
While this case was unfolding, a second victim called police to report that the same suspect had recently approached him while he had been sitting in his car near the intersection of Lytton Avenue and Ramona Street. This victim (a man in his thirties) also did not know the suspect and had not had any prior interaction with him. The suspect asked him to roll down his window, accused him of following him, and asked him to step out of his car. When the victim refused, the suspect attempted to punch the victim through the half-open window of the car but missed. The suspect then swung his hands down and broke the side view mirror of the victim’s car. There was not a hate crime component for this assault and vandalism.
Police booked the suspect, 35-year-old Ambrose Jamari Ochola of Walnut Creek, into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for five misdemeanors (hate crime, battery, resisting arrest, assault, and vandalism) and one felony (possession of illegal weapon).
Officers will thoroughly investigate any reported hate crimes in Palo Alto. You are welcome to read a blog post from the City entitled “Steps the Community Can Take to Help Stop Hate Crimes.”
The City of Palo Alto strongly denounces hate crimes of all kinds and encourages members of our community to promptly report these incidents by calling our 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413, or 9-1-1 if it is an emergency. To view details on other hate crimes reported in Palo Alto, visit www.cityofpaloalto.org/PAPDnews and search by keyword “hate.”
Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call our 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to [email protected] or sent via text message or voice mail to (650) 383-8984.