CAMPBELL -- From the moment he was elected as Campbell's youngest-ever City Council member, at age 23, Evan Low has been a fixture at public events around town. At 26, he became the nation's youngest Asian-American -- and openly gay -- mayor, appearing at the downtown farmers market on weekends so constituents could give him an earful.
But being the very public face of local government caught up with Low -- now the city's vice mayor -- in a very public, and unpleasant, way last weekend. As he made his way toward downtown Campbell's annual Oktoberfest, a woman walked up and, according to Low, began screaming at him. "It was totally out of the blue," he recalled. "I thought it was a joke, but then I realized she wasn't kidding. The first thing out of her mouth was" a slur directed at his sexual orientation, then, "You will die."
"Then she put her fingers in the shape of a gun and said, 'Bang! You will die.' "
Low had been part of a crowd streaming to and from the festival, but as the incident unfolded, about a dozen bystanders stopped and began to shout back at the woman. Low was still in shock. "I kept looking around at people to see their reaction, as if to say, 'Am I crazy?' "
When Low finally used his cellphone to call police, the woman reversed direction, heading to the Pruneyard parking lot, where she climbed into a white Mercedes. As she began to drive away, Low took a picture of the car with his phone, and a woman pushing
a baby stroller spit on the Mercedes as it pulled away. Through it all, the woman who confronted Low -- later identified by police as Lisa Knox-Smith -- continued screaming at him.



By the time police arrived, Knox-Smith had fled. "I can tell you that she's somebody our officers have had dealings with before," said Capt. Dave Carmichael, a spokesman for the department. "But we don't know where she is right now and we're not looking for her."
Campbell police turned over the results of their investigation to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, recommending Knox-Smith be charged with using offensive language in public.
"We had quite a few people who were pushing it as a hate crime," Carmichael said. "In this case, we felt it just didn't fit the parameters. And when we spoke with the DA's Office, they agreed that it did not rise to that level."
A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office did not return a call seeking comment.
Carmichael said Knox-Smith was already somewhat notorious for showing up at City Council meetings and yelling at people.
"We are familiar with her in that regard, as somebody who has caused disturbances in the past," he said.
Low said Knox-Smith had recently gone to the City Clerk's Office to file as a candidate for City Council, but was informed she was a month late. "Her response was to tell the deputy city clerk that she dressed like a prostitute," Low said.
Low wasn't eager to press for a hate crime charges
"I don't want to play victim," he said. "At the same time, you would hate not to take the necessary precautions to evaluate the threat. Look what happened to Gabby Giffords. These things are real. I think it's appropriate to take precautions to make sure it doesn't happen again.”
Contact Bruce Newman at 408-920-5004; follow him at Twitter.com/brucenewmantwit.