A 37-year-old man suspected of sexually assaulting a woman in Irvine has been arrested, police said on Saturday.
The woman was in her car in the Harvard Avenue and Coronado Street area around 1:30 p.m. Thursday when she saw Michael Sangbong Rhee standing by the driver’s door with a gun in his hand, according to Irvine Police Department Sgt. Carie Davies. Rhee is said to have told the woman to get in the back of her car if she wanted to live.
According to Davies, the woman offered to give Rhee her wallet and money. The woman said Rhee replied that they would “do that later” before allegedly opening the rear passenger door of the woman’s car, pushing her into the back seat, and sexually assaulting her.
The woman called out to a nearby maintenance worker that Rhee had a gun, Davies said. Rhee got out of the woman’s vehicle, ran through a shared apartment and got into his vehicle.
Surveillance cameras captured the license plate of Rhees vehicle as he left the complex, Davies said. Irvine officials went to Rhee’s Lake Forest residence and arrested him, Davies said.
Detectives were given a search warrant and retrieved several items – including a BB gun similar to the one the woman described – from Rhee’s house and vehicle that linked him to the alleged attack, Davies said.
Rhee has been charged with kidnapping with intent to commit sexual assault in Orange County Jail and is being held on $ 1 million bail.
Irvine police officers said Rhee targeted the woman – who is of Asian descent – because he thought she was white, Davies said. Detectives said they believe the alleged attack was in retaliation for hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The criminal complaint filed with the Orange County Attorney’s Office in the case is charged with hate crimes, Davies said.
Anyone with information on this case can contact Detective Haldor Larum at 949-724-7194 or [email protected]