US: Suspect in NYC attack on Asian American woman arrested

There has been an increase in Asian American hate crimes amid the pandemic and officials’ charged rhetoric, groups say.

Community activists show support outside of the building where an Asian American woman was assaulted in New York City as witnesses stood by [File: Mary Altaffer/AP]

The suspect wanted in a brutal attack of an Asian American woman near New York City’s Times Square has been arrested and charged with felony assault as a hate crime, according to police.

The arrest on Wednesday comes after the man was seen on video kicking and stomping the woman on Monday. In a statement, police identified him as Brandon Elliot, 38, and said the New York City man was living at a hotel that serves as a homeless shelter a few blocks from the scene of the attack.

He faces charges of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault, police said. It was not immediately known whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

The 65-year-old woman, whose name has not been made public, was walking to church in midtown Manhattan, a few blocks from Times Square, when police said a man kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, stomped on her face, shouted anti-Asian slurs and told her, “you don’t belong here” before casually walking away.

The woman was discharged from the 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 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of the man seen on surveillance video brutalising the woman. And they had asked the public for help in doing its part to disrupt further assaults.

At the same time, officials admonished bystanders for doing nothing to stop the man.

The attack on Monday was among the latest in a national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, and happened just 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 the coronavirus and former President Donald Trump’s use of racially charged terms like “Chinese virus”.

It also comes after a gunman murdered eight people in Atlanta on March 16, including six women of Asian descent, further drawing attention to the targeting of Asian Americans.

‘Disgusting and outrageous’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called Monday’s attack “absolutely disgusting and outrageous.” He said 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,” de Blasio said.

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 come to the woman’s aid. One of them was seen closing the building door as the woman was on the ground. The attacker was able to casually walk away while onlookers watched, the video showed.

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

“If you see someone being attacked, do whatever you can,” 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.”

Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, said the victim “could easily have been my mother”. He too criticised the bystanders, saying their inaction was “exactly the opposite of what we need here in New York City”.

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

On Friday, in the same neighbourhood as Monday’s attack, a 65-year-old Asian American woman was accosted by a man waving an unknown object and shouting anti-Asian insults. A 48-year-old man was arrested the next day and charged with menacing. He is not suspected in Monday’s attack.

The NYPD’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.

The neighbourhood where Monday’s attack occurred, Hell’s Kitchen, is predominantly white, with an Asian population of less than 20 percent, according to city demographic data.

Shea 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.”

According to a report from Stop AAPI Hate, more than 3,795 incidents were reported to the organisation from March 19, 2020, to February 28.

The group, which tracks incidents of discrimination, hate and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US, said that number is “only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur”.

Source: News Agencies