WASHINGTON (ABC7) — A local man is facing a hate crime charge for allegedly smashing an African American man in the head with a bicycle lock after repeatedly screaming the "N-word" at him.
Maxim Smith, 24, who is white, is facing a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. DC Police say they are investigating the attack as a hate crime.
Ketchazo Paho told ABC7 News the gash was so deep that he needed 18 stitches, and Tuesday night he was still in pain.
The alleged assault happened early Monday morning in Georgetown.
Paho was driving westbound on M Street just east of the intersection with Wisconsin Avenue. He say he honked at Smith, who was on a bicycle blocking the middle of the road.
He says as he passed Smith with his car, Smith hit his car with something.
He says as he got out to check for damage, Smith repeatedly yelled the "N-word" at him. He says Smith went up the street and then came back, and eventually Paho held on to Smith’s bike as he called police.
“I’m holding his bike, because he just damaged my property,” Paho said. “Like, ‘You’re not going to leave.’ And that’s why he hit me.”
Paho said Smith used a bike U-lock to hit him. Smith got away but was caught by DC Police a short time later.
Tuesday night Smith was in jail on no bond.
Paho says he never physically attacked Smith because he didn’t want to be accused of a crime himself. He says both the physical wound and the words that were used hurt.
“It’s painful that some individual could think that they have the right to be offensive,” he said. “And they can feel so comfortable with it.”
Paho says he wants to warn other people of color about what happened to him, especially with a white nationalist rally planned for DC this weekend.
“I’m just going to say keep your eyes open and be on the lookout,” said Paho, who lives in Bethesda. “There’s going to be a lot of individuals just like him walking the street like normal Americans.”
On Tuesday, there was no attorney listed for Smith in DC Court records. ABC7 reached his father by phone — he told us he had lost touch with his son, but had never known him to harbor any racial hatred.
It’s unclear if Smith has any ties to the white nationalists organizing the “Unite the Right” rally scheduled to be held near the White House Sunday.
“While there’s no known affiliations at this time, we know about the speech that he used, the kind of hate speech, that rhetoric, that is consistent with these types of groups,” said Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who represented DeAndre Harris, an African American man beaten during riots in Charlottesville last year.
“We have a lot of hate groups coming to the DC area this weekend,” said Merritt, who is now representing Paho. “I think it’s critically important that we get out ahead of that, that law enforcement knows that they need to clamp down, because these groups are notoriously violent.”