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Lowell High teens reported anti-Asian hate on Muni. Now, their parents demand action

A boy's silhouette from behind is seen in a photo.
A Lowell High School student said he was shocked when a man on Muni uttered racial slurs and switched on a stun gun. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Families of Lowell High School students are calling for a hate crime investigation and more police presence on San Francisco buses after they said a passenger used anti-Asian slurs on Muni and then threatened a woman with a stun gun.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told The Standard in an email that the incident took place on the 29 Sunset inbound bus as school was getting out around 3 p.m. Wednesday. The agency is working with the San Francisco Police Department to figure out what happened.

“We do not tolerate crime, harassment and attacks of hate on Muni,” an SFMTA spokesperson wrote in an email, “and we thank the riders who reported this to us as quickly reporting incidents of crime and harassment help us begin our investigation immediately to help SFPD identify a suspect.”

Two of the Lowell High students—whose names are being withheld at their parents’ request—relayed their accounts to The Standard on Saturday. 

One student said they were on the 29 Muni traveling north on Sunset Boulevard near Taraval Street with their friends at 3:07 p.m. Wednesday when a man at the back of the bus began saying Asian people should “go back to their country” and that they are “ruining the country,” referring to them using an anti-Chinese slur.

A 16-year-old girl standing nearby on the back of the bus then stood up, telling the man to “shut up,” the student said. After that, the student said, the man approached the girl and asked her, “Who taught you your manners? Your parents should have taught you better,” before directing the slur at her.

Then, a woman sitting in the back of the bus nearby asked the man why he was berating the girl, after which a brief argument ensued, the student said.

About 15 seconds later, the man said, “Here’s what I’m going to do,” and whipped out a stun gun, switched it on and pointed it at the woman whom he was arguing with, the student said.

A woman sits at a table.
San Francisco parent Liz Le is calling for an increased police presence on Muni buses after her teen, who attends Lowell High School, witnessed a man utter racial slurs and pull out a taser. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Once the man turned on the stun gun for about five seconds, according to the student, the bus driver stopped the bus and evacuated the passengers. The man also left the bus and continued north on Sunset Boulevard, the student said.

The student called the incident “shocking” but said it didn’t make them afraid of using public transit.

“It was pretty shocking but I’m fine,” the student said. “ No one was injured or hurt. I’m still OK with riding the bus.”

Liz Le—the student’s mom, who often sounds off on local politics on X—said she worries about another incident like that happening again while her child is on the bus and said she’s considering driving him to school more often in light of what happened.

“This time it was a taser,” she told The Standard. “What if it was a gun or a knife? I worry for him.”

Shawn Laureyns, a Lowell High Advanced Placement environmental science teacher whose teenager attends Lowell, said his child was also on the bus during the incident.

“My son was freaked out at the thought that it was a gun at first,” Laureyns said. “He said he’s not afraid to ride the bus, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just bravado or not. He just said, ‘The guy’s crazy.’”

Laureyns’ son told The Standard a similar story to the one recounted by the first teen: He was just feet away when a man began yelling, including the slur, and said Asians should “get out of the country,” before pulling out a taser and pointing it at the woman.

“I was scared. I thought it was a gun, the way he reached for it,” the student said. “I got off and ran like 2-3 blocks.”

But he said he still feels comfortable riding public transit.

“I’m not really scared to ride the bus,” the student said. “This stuff is pretty rare.”

A red and gray city bus, moving on a street with buildings in the background.
Lowell students allege a man uttered racial slurs against Asians and threatened a passenger with a taser Wednesday on a 29 Muni bus. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

San Francisco police said officers responded to Sunset Boulevard and Santiago Street at around 3:15 p.m. regarding a suspicious person. Responding officers met with a caller who ​​gave similar details to the students’ accounts but said a man “yelled statements” at passengers before pulling out a taser and getting off the bus. The man was not located by the officers during their investigation. 

Laureyns said it’s not uncommon to hear students talk about passengers acting out on Muni but wasn’t sure how many of those incidents involve alarming outbursts or hate speech.

“I think they’ve gotten used to more craziness than [there] should be,” Laureyns said.

Le and Laureyns said they want SFPD officers to ride the bus, particularly during peak commute hours and when kids are returning from school, in case an incident like this happens again.

Le said the city needs to be more aggressive in preventing hate crimes from happening in San Francisco. Le pointed to the July 2023 incident where a 63-year-old Asian woman, Yanfang Wu, was shoved to the ground and later died, claiming police “did nothing.” Police had said Wu's death was accidental before they reopened their investigation into the death in March amid pressure from local politicians.

The incident on the Muni bus happened just hours after a man attacked two older Asian men in Downtown San Francisco, seemingly without provocation. 

“Our city leadership, it’s sad,” Le said. “I don’t feel safe in my city, and I’ve been here for 20 years. The city is passive, letting Asian hate happen.”