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Man accused of hate crime, punching man on MTS trolley

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 20:43:02-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A man was arrested on battery and hate crime charges Thursday after he punched a man who recently arrived from Afghanistan and threatened to kill his family.

San Diego Police said Robert Compton, 48, was on a trolley in the Grantville area on Feb. 26 just before 12 p.m., when he approached a family of four who recently moved to San Diego from Afghanistan. The family was being given a tour from a Catholic charity helping them during their transition to the area.

Police say Compton told the 41-year-old father and threatened to kill the family. He also told the family to "go back to where you came from, I hate you," according to SDPD.

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Compton then punched the man, causing multiple fractures to his face, and fled the trolley.

Police responded and began investigating the assault as a hate crime. Compton was identified as a suspect using information obtained from the city's smart streetlights and arrested at 800 Market Street.

The data from the smart streetlight also placed Compton as the suspect of another unprovoked felony battery that occurred two days later, though that assault is not believed to be hate motivated.

"Our department does not tolerate violent acts motivated by hate and will investigate all incidents to ensure the safety of all members of our community," SDPD said in a release.

Smart streetlights have been a hotly debated enforcement tool in San Diego, with critics raising privacy concerns and lack of oversight.