Man held over ‘disgusting’ attack on Asian American woman in New York street

Police in NYC
Police in NYC (AP)
13:12pm, Wed 31 Mar 2021
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A man has been arrested over a brutal attack on an Asian American woman in New York City and charged with assault as a hate crime.

A man seen on video kicking and stamping on the woman on Monday was identified by police as Brandon Elliot, 38, of New York City.

Officers said he faces charges of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault, and added that he was living at a hotel that serves as a homeless shelter a few blocks from the scene of the attack in Manhattan.

Elliot was convicted of stabbing his mother to death in the Bronx in 2002, when he was 19. He was released from prison in 2019 and is on lifetime parole.

The victim was identified as Vilma Kari, a 65-year-old woman who immigrated from the Philippines, her daughter told the New York Times

Ms Kari was walking to church a few blocks from Times Square when police said a man kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, stamped on her face, shouted anti-Asian slurs and told her, “you don’t belong here”, before casually walking away.

She was discharged from hospital on Tuesday after being treated for serious injuries, a hospital spokesperson said.

Police on Tuesday had blanketed the midtown Manhattan neighbourhood with wanted posters and offered a 2,500 dollar (£1,800) reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the man seen on surveillance video attacking Ms Kari.

At the same time, officials criticised bystanders for doing nothing to stop the assault, which came amid a national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, weeks after a mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent.

The surge in violence has been linked in part to misplaced blame for coronavirus and former president Donald Trump’s use of racially charged terms like “Chinese virus”.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday’s attack “absolutely disgusting and outrageous”, adding it was “absolutely unacceptable” that witnesses did not intervene.

“I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you do, you’ve got to help your fellow New Yorker,” he said, evoking the post-9/11 mantra of “see something, say something”.

The attack happened late on Monday morning outside an apartment building two blocks from Times Square, a bustling, heavily policed section of midtown Manhattan known as the “Crossroads of the World”.

Two workers inside the building who appeared to be security guards were seen on surveillance video witnessing the attack but failing to go to Ms Kari’s aid. One of them closed the building door as she was on the ground, and the attacker walked away while onlookers watched.

The building’s management company said they were suspended pending an investigation, but the workers’ union said they called for help immediately.

“If you see someone being attacked, do whatever you can,” Mr de Blasio said. “Make noise. Call out what’s happening. Go and try and help. Immediately call for help. Call 911.

“This is something where we all have to be part of the solution. We can’t just stand back and watch a heinous act happening.”

This year in New York City there have been 33 hate crimes with an Asian victim as of Sunday, police said. There were 11 by the same time last year.

New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force has asked anyone with information to contact the department’s confidential hotline or submit tips online.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced last week that the department would increase outreach and patrols in predominantly Asian communities, including the use of undercover officers to prevent and disrupt attacks.

He called Monday’s attack “disgusting”, telling TV station NY1: “I don’t know who attacks a 65-year-old woman and leaves her on the street like that.”

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