San Francisco: Xiao Zhen Xie was standing at an intersection in San Francisco on Wednesday, waiting for the traffic light to change, when a White man with shaggy blond hair ran up and punched her face.
Xie, 75, picked up a wooden plank and hit back, striking the man’s face.
Police soon arrived on the scene, where Xie stood sobbing and clutching the makeshift weapon as the bleeding assailant was strapped into a stretcher.
“This man, he hit me!” Xie said to onlookers, a video of the aftermath shows, as she held towels up to her bloodied eye.
Police arrested Steven Jenkins, 39, on Thursday and said he was also responsible for another unprovoked assault of an elderly Asian person that day. He is now charged with two counts of assault and elder abuse.
“Investigators are working to determine if racial bias was a motivating factor in the incident,” Robert Rueca, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement to The Post.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have taken centre stage in the national conversation this week following a rampage at three Atlanta spas killed eight, including six Asian women. The coalition Stop AAPI Hate reported this week that since last March, as the pandemic forced nationwide shutdowns, there have been almost 3,800 reported incidents nationwide - a fraction of the true number, the group says.
The Bay Area, in particular, has seen a surge in anti-Asian attacks in recent months. On Jan. 28 in San Francisco, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand was shoved to the ground and later died. A similar incident happened earlier this month in Oakland to a 75-year-old Asian American man, who survived. A woman in Mountain View, Calif., was charged this month for yelling racist epithets and spitting on a 36-year-old Asian American man as he ate lunch outside.
On Wednesday, police said, Jenkins assaulted another elderly Asian American just before he attacked Xie.
Ngoc Pham, an 83-year-old Vietnamese American man, was grocery shopping at a farmers market, according to a GoFundMe organised by Community Youth Centre of San Francisco.Jenkins punched Pham, who fell to the ground. A witness notified a security guard, who chased after Jenkins as he tried to escape.
Jenkins then ran east, where he encountered Xie, who was standing at a street corner, and punched her. As Xie picked up the wooden plank and began striking Jenkins with it, the security guard arrived and detained him until police showed up.
Soon afterward, a KPIX employee happened to jog by and began filming on his cellphone, capturing Jenkins in a stretcher, with blood dripping from his mouth.
Xie stood nearby, sobbing and holding a long wooden plank.
“Why did you hit me?” Xie said in Cantonese to Jenkins as a crowd gathered around, KPIX reported.
By 4:30 p.m., Jenkins was booked in county jail after police took him to a hospital “for an unrelated, prior medical condition,” Rueca said. His bond is set at $50,000, according to jail records. A lawyer for Jenkins was not listed and records did not indicate when he will appear in court.
Xie and Pham were also taken to the hospital with “non-life-threatening injuries,” police said.
Pham is still there, according to the GoFundMe. He has cuts and bruises on his head, and fractured his nose and possibly his neck bones. As of early Friday, Pham’s GoFundMe has raised over $103,000 for his medical fees.
“Ngoc . . . is in good spirits,” the GoFundMe says. “Ngoc has always had a positive outlook on life as a result of him surviving 17 years in a Vietnamese concentration camp.”
Xie has two black eyes, according to her grandson John Chen, who created a GoFundMe that has raised about $590,000 by early Friday for her medical expenses. Xie, who has lived in San Francisco for 26 years, is struggling to recover both physically and emotionally, her family said.
“Very traumatized, very scared and this eye is still bleeding,” Dong-Mei Li, Xie’s daughter, told KPIX on Thursday. “The right eye still cannot see anything and still bleeding and we have something to absorb the bleeding.”
Chen wrote that his grandmother said she was afraid to ever leave her home again. But he noted he was proud of Xie’s response to the attack.
“I am amazed by her bravery,” Chen wrote. “She was the one that defended herself from this unprovoked attack.”
In second post on Thursday, Chen relayed a message from his grandmother to the more than 20,000 GoFundMe donors.
“She hopes the younger generation of Asian Americans can all stand up for one another, and hope they can stick up for the elderly,” Chen wrote.