A man was arrested on hate-crime and assault charges after a Filipino American woman was attacked near New York City’s Times Square, police said early Wednesday.
Police said Brandon Elliot, 38, is the man seen on video kicking and stomping the woman on Monday. They said Elliot was living at a hotel that serves as a homeless shelter a few blocks from the scene of the attack.
He was taken into custody at the hotel around midnight. Tips from the public led to his apprehension, police said.
Elliot was convicted of stabbing his mother to death in the Bronx neighbourhood in 2002, when he was 19. He was released from prison in 2019 and is on lifetime parole. The parole board had previously twice denied his release. His record also included an arrest for robbery in 2000.
“When you’re releasing people from prison and you’re putting them in homeless shelters you’re asking for trouble,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea told WPIX-TV. “There’s got to be a safety net and there’s got to be resources for them…. You just shake your head and say, ‘What could possibly go wrong’ and this is what goes wrong. It just never should happen.”
Elliot faces charges of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault in Monday’s attack, police said. It wasn’t immediately known whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf. He was expected to be arraigned by video Wednesday.
Victim suffered serious injuries
The victim was identified as Vilma Kari, a 65-year-old woman who immigrated from the Philippines, her daughter told the New York Times. The newspaper did not identify Kari’s daughter.
Kari was walking to church in midtown Manhattan 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.
She was discharged from the hospital Tuesday after being treated for serious injuries, a hospital spokesperson said.
The attack 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 pandemic and former president Donald Trump’s use of racially charged terms such as “Chinese virus” and “China virus.”
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 Tuesday.
Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, said the victim “could easily have been my mother.” He, too, criticized the bystanders, saying their inaction was “exactly the opposite of what we need here in New York City.”
WATCH | De Blasio, Yang respond to ‘horrifying’ attack:
The attack happened late Monday morning outside a luxury apartment building two blocks from Times Square.
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 the workers were suspended pending an investigation. The workers’ union said they called for help immediately.
Residents of the building defended the workers Wednesday in a letter to the management company and the media. They contend that a video clip focusing on the suspect and the assault was “unfortunately cut to inadvertently exclude the compassionate action” taken by staff members, which they said included giving the victim aid and alerting medics.
Philippine government reacts
Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez said the victim is Filipino American.
The country’s foreign secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., condemned the attack in a Twitter post, saying: “This is gravely noted and will influence Philippine foreign policy.”
Locsin did not elaborate how the attack could influence Philippine policy toward the United States. The countries are longtime treaty allies, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is a vocal critic of U.S. security policies who has moved to terminate a key agreement that allows large-scale military exercises with American forces in the Philippines.
“I might as well say it, so no one on the other side can say, ‘We didn’t know you took racial brutality against Filipinos at all seriously.’ We do,” Locsin said.
Increase in hate crimes
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 last week said it was increasing outreach and patrols in predominantly Asian communities, including the use of undercover officers to prevent and disrupt attacks.
“This is crucial to the equation,” de Blasio said of the new policing efforts. “It’s a very few people but we need to find each and every one of them and stop this.”