NewsLocal News


Hate crime investigation at Nipomo business leads to arrest

A Santa Maria man was arrested Friday
SLO County Sheriff's Office
Posted at 2:14 PM, May 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-27 22:48:43-04

An arrest has been made in connection with a hate crime investigation at a Nipomo business.

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office says the report was made around 6 a.m. Friday after a note that contained racially-driven hate speech and violent threats was found at a business in the 500 block of West Tefft Street.

Authorities say the note was directed at the business owner.

People reportedly saw a man leave the note and provided a description to authorities who say someone also followed the suspect from the scene and told deputies where to locate him.

Hate speech note.JPG

The sheriff’s office says they were told the suspect, identified as Ricardo Salazar, 47, of Santa Maria, has been loitering near the business on a regular basis despite being asked to leave.

Marissa Wilson, the owner of Powerhouse Barre and Pilates, says since March of this year, she and her clients have noticed a man park his vehicle just outside their studio, then leave minutes before class would end.

“He knew our schedule. He knew when we were here. He knew when we left,” Wilson said.

Last Friday, she noticed a change in behavior.

“The following week, he came early and parked in the spot that I normally park in, and prior to that, he always sat in the front seat but this time he sat in the back seat,” she explained.

Wilson says the man kept peeking his head between the seats throughout the workout and that’s when she decided to call the sheriff’s office out of concern for her client’s safety as well as her own.

Sheriff's officials confirm that deputies responded to the business once before for a report of a suspicious person in a vehicle, but they say the person had left before authorities arrived.

Wilson says she feels frustrated and upset by the note left on her window.

“We don’t get to choose who we are," she said. "Like when you write something like 'you African Gorilla' on there -- we don’t get to choose how we look. We don’t get to choose the color of our skin.”

While she did cancel all of her classes on Friday, Wilson says she will work on opening up again soon and that she's not going to let this incident stop her.

Salazar was arrested on suspicion of criminal threats with a hate crime enhancement.

Jail logs show he remained in custody Friday afternoon with bail set at $150,000.

Ricardo Salazar.jpg
Ricardo Salazar

The sheriff’s office says their investigation is still ongoing and they are working to address any other possible threats.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s detective division at (805) 781-4500.