An elderly Asian woman who said she was randomly attacked on the street in San Francisco picked up what looked like a long wooden paddle to defend herself and ultimately sent the suspect to the hospital. The San Francisco Police Department has since identified the suspect as Steven Jenkins, 39.
The suspect had assaulted an 83-year-old Asian man minutes earlier, the San Francisco Police Department confirmed with Heavy. The suspect was running away from a security guard when he punched Xiao Zhen Xie.
Xie, 75, suffered two black eyes in the attack and was treated at the hospital. Her family says she has been emotionally traumatized by the experience and is now afraid to leave her house.
The attack on Xie comes amid an “alarming spike in brazen anti-Asian violence in recent weeks” in the San Francisco Bay area, as the San Francisco Police Department described on Twitter.
Here’s what you need to know:
Xie Said She Had Been Waiting to Cross the Street When the Attacker Punched Her Without Provocation
The violent confrontation occurred around 10 a.m. on March 17 at the intersection of Market Street and Charles J. Brenham Place in San Francisco, police said. The victim, Xiao Zhen Xie, told KPIX-TV she was leaning against a light pole waiting to cross the street when a stranger suddenly punched her in the face. She said the attack was unprovoked.
Xie’s daughter, Dong-Mei Li, translated for her mother in the interview with KPIX-TV. Xie tearfully explained she didn’t know the man and didn’t understand why he would have attacked her. But she jumped into action to protect herself. Li told the outlet, “She found the stick around the area and fought back.” Witnesses told KPIX-TV they saw Xie “pummeling” her attacker with the paddle.
One of the witnesses who took a video of the aftermath was KPIX Sports Director Dennis O’Donnell, who had been jogging in the area. O’Donnell said Xie waved the wooden paddle in one hand and held an ice pack to her face with the other.
She was visibly very upset and yelled out in Chinese, “This bum, he hit me,” as paramedics handcuffed the man to a stretcher. O’Donnell added, “From what I could see, she wanted more of the guy on the stretcher and the police were holding her back.”
According to CNN, Xie was also telling the first responders, “He bullied me, he bullied me, jerk” and “He bullies old people so I gave a punch.”
The Suspect Assaulted an Asian Man Minutes Before Punching Xie, According to Police
The suspect has been identified as 39-year-old Steven Jenkins. He has been charged with two counts of assault likely to produce great bodily injury and two charges of elder abuse.
Jenkins was also accused of assaulting an 83-year-old Asian man just minutes before encountering Xie. The San Francisco PD confirmed to Heavy via email that the suspect had been “involved in a physical altercation in U.N. Plaza.” About 30 minutes after the initial altercation, the suspect “approached the male victim and assaulted him.”
According to police, a local security guard was alerted to this assault and chased after Jenkins on foot. As Jenkins ran away, he came upon Xie and attacked her as well. Police said the security guard detained Jenkins until officers arrived at the scene.
The police spokesperson did not comment on Xie’s defense of herself in the email with Heavy. Police explained the suspect was hospitalized due to “an unrelated, prior medical condition.” The statement included, “Investigators are working to determine if bias was a motivating factor in the incident.”
Xie’s Grandson Says She Is Scared to Leave Her Home & May Have PTSD
Xie has lived in San Francisco for 26 years, according to her family. But they say she is now afraid to leave her home in a senior retirement community.
Her grandson, John Chen, started a GoFundMe campaign to help Xie pay for medical expenses. According to the page, Xie suffered two black eyes, one of which has continued to bleed since the attack. Her wrist was also injured.
But her grandson says the damage to Xie’s psyche is more profound. He wrote on the page, “She has been severely affected mentally, physically, and emotionally. She also stated that she is afraid to step out of her home from now on. This traumatic event has left her with PTSD.” He added that Xie is a cancer survivor and also has diabetes.
He set an initial goal of $50,000. The campaign quickly surpassed that amount. In less than one day, the campaign had raised more than $450,000. More than 15,000 individual donors have chipped in.
Chen also noted that he was “amazed” by his grandmother’s bravery in defending herself. He added, “My heart is with all the other elderly asians that have also been seriously injured or killed in this wave of attacks towards the asian community.”
San Fransico Police Are Increasing Patrols Amid a Spike in Assaults Against People of Asian Descent
The San Francisco Police Department has promised to do more to protect people of Asian descent amid an “alarming spike” in attacks. The department said on Twitter that it was “coordinating with our federal partners and local AAPI community organizations and stepping up our patrols in predominantly Asian neighborhoods.”
The two attacks against elderly Asian-Americans on March 17 came on the heels of a separate attack in the Atlanta area. Robert Aaron Long was accused of killing eight people at three spas during a shooting spree; six of the victims were of Asian descent.
According to the social organization Stop AAPI Hate, attacks against Asian-Americans increased by 150% in 2020. The group received nearly 3,800 reports of hate crimes across the United States from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021, according to a national report. About 11% of the incidents involve physical assaults while verbal harassment accounted for 68% of the reports. State Assemblyman David Chui told KPIX-TV that about 1,600 of the reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans had taken place in California.
The uptick in violence against Asian-Americans coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Pew Research Center released a survey in July 2020 that found that “about four-in-ten U.S. adults (39%) say it is more common for people to express racist or racially insensitive views about people who are Asian than it was before the coronavirus outbreak.” Among Asian adults, that percentage rose to 58%. About 31% of Asian adults surveyed said they had been “subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the coronavirus outbreak.”