COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — Asma Mohamed Jama’s face now carries the scars from what she says was an unprovoked attack inside the Applebee’s on 129th Avenue in Coon Rapids.
Jama was with her cousins and a total of four children having dinner last Friday night, they were speaking in their native language, Swahili.
According to a criminal complaint, 43-year-old Jodie Marie Burchard-Risch, of Ramsey, became upset because they were not speaking English.
Jama says she said something back.
“I live in America. I can speak English but we prefer to speak our own language if it bothers you I’m sorry,” Jama said.
“She was abusing her verbally,” said Cmdr. Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office. “Staff at the restaurant tried to intervene, tried to get them to move and get out of the way, but the suspect in the case finished her assault by taking a large beer mug and striking the victim across the face.”
“It was the big beer mug. She threw it with the beer on my face,” Jama recalled.
The punch caused deep cuts to Jama’s nose, right eye and lower lip. She got a total of 17 stitches.
The complaint says Burchard–Risch smashed the beer mug across Jama’s face and then ran from the restaurant.
“The Applebee’s employees actually followed [Burchard-Risch] until law enforcement could arrive and take her into custody,” Sommer said.
Burchard-Risch is charged with third-degree assault, a felony that could land her in jail for years.
“This is a case of an individual who was intolerant and not accepting of someone who was speaking in a language other than English in her presence and felt that if you are in America you should speak English,” Sommer said.
He added that in all his years of law enforcement, he’s never dealt with this type of intolerance.
“Certainly I’ve seen racially motivated crimes, but I can’t say that I’ve seen somebody assaulted for speaking in their native language,” he said.
“We kind of feel like we’ve come a long way with racism and intolerance in our country,” he added, “but every so often something like this happens and reminds us we haven’t quite come far enough.”
Jama says what happened that night has changed her.
“Emotionally it’s destroyed me honestly. I’ve lived in Minnesota for 15 years. I’ve never been looked at strangly ever,” Jama said.
Burchard- Rish has been charged with assault in the past. She pleaded guilty to an earlier assault charge in 2011.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Jama with her medical bills.