A 40-year-old man is facing hate crime charges for allegedly threatening two gay roommates in Santa Ana at knifepoint and slashing the tires of one victim's vehicle, police said Tuesday.
Joe Martin Rodriguez pleaded not guilty Monday to single counts of assault with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and violation of civil rights with a violent injury, as well as two counts of criminal threats, all felonies.
He is also facing sentencing enhancements for hate crimes and the personal use of a deadly weapon, along with misdemeanor counts of a hate crime and hate crime with property damage.
On July 4, Rodriguez grew angry when he wrongly believed one of his roommates was using the bathroom, said Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
He pounded on the door of the bathroom with an 8- to 9-inch silver blade knife with a brown handle, making anti-gay slurs and threatening to kill his roommates, Bertagna said.
At some point he pulled out a handgun and pointed it at one or two of the victims while making more homophobic remarks and threatening to kill both of them, Bertagna said.
As police were called, Rodriguez left and slashed the tires of one of the victims' vehicles before getting into a car with a friend, who drove away from the home, Bertagna said.
Police located the car and pulled the driver over, prompting the defendant to get out and run away, Bertagna said, but a police helicopter crew tracked him down and he was arrested.
Rodriguez was ordered to return to court for a pretrial hearing on July 16 in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.