Man accused of taping racist threat on SLO County pilates studio window pleads not guilty




  • In US
  • 2022-06-22 19:33:06Z
  • By San Luis Obispo Tribune

A man accused of taping a racist threat to the window of a San Luis Obispo County pilates studio pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges on Wednesday.

Ricardo Salazar, 47, faces felony charges of making criminal threats with an enhancement of the threat being a hate crime. He entered his plea in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Salazar was arrested May 27 after he was allegedly observed taping a note threatening Black people to the window of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates in Nipomo.

Studio owner and founder Marissa Wilson is Black.

According to court documents, Wilson feared for her safety and the safety of her family.

She told The Tribune that she was prescribed anxiety medication to help her cope with the incident.

"I didn't know anything about this person. I didn't know who he was," she said. "Why was he doing that? Those were the kinds of things that were causing anxiety."

Wilson said the Nipomo community has been extremely supportive, and even "heart attacked" her studio by taping hearts with kind messages to her studio's windows.

"I want to thank the community for being so supportive of me and my business and my staff," Wilson said, noting that her studio is moving to a new space by mid-July. "Despite what happened, our community is pretty amazing and watches out for each other."

A racist note was taped to the window of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates in Nipomo on May 27, 2022.
A racist note was taped to the window of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates in Nipomo on May 27, 2022.  

Man had been watching studio for months, owner says

Wilson said she had first noticed Salazar outside her studio, located at 543 W. Tefft St. in Nipomo, when a client pointed him out on April 1. She noticed he would park outside the studio each Friday for the 6 a.m. class, and seemed to watch each morning.

Salazar's car appears in photos as far back as early March, according to Shannon Mako, the studio's social media manger.

The car wasn't seen for two weeks. Salazar allegedly came back on May 20, but this time he sat in his back seat, Wilson said.

After class was finished on May 20, Wilson said she decided to confront Salazar and told him to leave and not come back. She also called 911, which then called the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

She said the responding Sheriff's Office deputy was reluctant to come to the studio, and told her, "'It's not my fault you're wearing those clothes and that he can see you wearing those clothes.'"

The deputy eventually arrived but after Salazar had already left, Wilson said.

The following week, Salazar reportedly returned to the studio and taped the threat to the window.

"I don't like Black People in this city. So you back to yo Africa GORILLA," the note read in black marker. "Im Goin to Killing you beach."

Wilson followed Salazar to a nearby parking lot and called 911. He was then arrested by sheriff's deputies.

Sheriff's Office spokesman Tony Cipolla told the Tribune via email that the department opened an administrative investigation with the Professional Standards Unit after learning of the alleged conduct. That investigation was still open as of June 15 and the involved deputy remained on duty, he said.

San Luis Obispo County assistant district attorney Eric Dobroth told the Tribune that items "that may be a concern" were found inside Salazar's car.

Ricardo Salazar, 47, from Santa Maria was arrested May 27, 2022 on suspicion of communicating a threat to someone that can result in great bodily injury or death with a hate crime penalty enhancement.
Ricardo Salazar, 47, from Santa Maria was arrested May 27, 2022 on suspicion of communicating a threat to someone that can result in great bodily injury or death with a hate crime penalty enhancement.  

Hate crime suspect has past rape charges

According to court records obtained by The Tribune, Salazar was charged with assault with intent to commit rape and attempted rape Santa Maria in November 2003.

The details of the alleged crime are unclear in the documents, but the assault was alleged to have occurred on November 6, 2003. Charges were filed on November 11, 2003.

The documents show Salazar pleaded not guilty to the charges and had bail set at $60,000 while he remained in Santa Barbara County Jail custody.

The case was dismissed a few weeks after the charges were filed on the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office's motion. The documents obtained by the Tribune do not show why the charges were dismissed.

What's next in criminal threat case

Salazar remained in San Luis Obispo County Jail custody as of Wednesday morning with bail set at $80,000.

Salazar's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10, and a jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 22.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of six years in state prison - three years for the threat and three years for the hate crime enhancement - as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

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