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An Indiana woman is charged with a federal hate crime in alleged anti-Asian bus attack

An 18-year-old Indiana University student was less than a mile away from the Bloomington campus when an attacker struck her multiple times in the head with a folding knife.
Darron Cummings
An 18-year-old Indiana University student was less than a mile away from the Bloomington campus when an attacker struck her multiple times in the head with a folding knife.

Billie R. Davis, 56, who is accused of stabbing a young passenger on a public bus in Bloomington, Ind., because she assumed the 18-year-old Indiana University student was "Chinese," has been charged with a federal hate crime.

According to the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana Davis, 56, was indictedby a federal grand jury in Evansville, Ind., on Thursday. She also faces local charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery and battery with a deadly weapon.

The indictment alleges that Davis "willfully caused bodily injury to the victim and attempted to do so through the use of a knife, because of the victim's race and national origin," the DOJ and U.S. attorney's office said.

On Jan. 11, the student was preparing to get off a public bus near the Bloomington campus when another passenger struck her repeatedly in the head with a folding knife. The attacker then walked away, leaving multiple stab wounds on the victim's head.

The Bloomington Police Department said surveillance footage from the bus showed that the suspect and the victim had no interactions prior to the assault.

According to an affidavit shared with NPR, Davis told police that she not only stabbed the victim, but she targeted the student because she assumed the student was "Chinese" — adding that it "would be one less person to blow up our country."

Davis' attorney, Kyle Dugger, told NPR in January that Davis has a long history of "severe mental illness" and was seeking help managing her condition on the day of the assault. Dugger has filed an insanity defense for Davis.

On Saturday, he told NPR that he expects the state-level charges to be dismissed and that Davis will be transferred to federal custody.

In late January, Kathleen DeLaney, an attorney who is representing the student's family, told NPR in a statement: "The family has stated that the student is out of the hospital and recovering, and they have requested privacy to allow for further emotional and physical healing."

The unprovoked attack also sent shock waves to Asian Americans in the state and across the country, as the community grapples with increased reports of hate crimes against Asians in the U.S. over the past three years.

While Davis has been charged with a federal hate crime, Indiana's own hate crime laws have been under scrutiny.

In early January, local prosecutors told NPR that Davis was not charged with a hate crime because Indiana is one of four states that lack a comprehensive law.

David Goldenberg, the Midwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the lack of comprehensive hate crime laws in the state has major consequences.

"Prosecutors need to prosecute these incidents as hate crimes when they are," Goldenberg told NPR in January. "The thing about hate crimes is it affects not only the individual victim but it affects the entire community."

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.