Suspect in Manhattan attack on Fil-Am woman charged with assault as a hate crime

April 1, 2021 - 8:33 AM
A New York City Police Department (NYPD) wanted poster of the alleged perpetrator in an assault attack on an Asian woman on March 29, 2021, is pictured outside an apartment building on Manhattan's West 43rd Street in New York City, New York, U.S., March 30, 2021. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

NEW YORK— A New York man previously convicted of murdering his mother has been arrested and charged with assaulting a 65-year-old Filipino-American woman in a hate crime, an attack captured on a video that went viral amid a rise in anti-Asian incidents in the United States.

Police identified Brandon Elliot, 38, as the man seen in the video kicking the woman to the ground and then kicking her several more times on Monday near Times Square in midtown Manhattan.

READ: New York police seek man who made ‘anti-Asian statements’ while attacking Fil-Am woman

Elliot was due to be arraigned later on Wednesday on two charges of second-degree assault as a hate crime and one count of first-degree attempted assault as a hate crime, New York District Attorney Cy Vance said at a news briefing.

“Mr. Elliot is accused of brutally shoving, kicking and stomping a 65-year-old mother to the ground after telling her that she didn’t belong here,” Vance said. “There is no place for these atrocious acts of anti-Asian violence in New York.”

Vance added that his office has more than a dozen open cases and ongoing investigations into apparent hate incidents against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community since the start of this year.

The New York Police Department said its Hate Crimes Task Force had been looking for the assailant since Monday afternoon and found Elliot through an investigation that included social media and community tips. Elliot, who was on lifetime parole after serving a prison term for murdering his mother, was arrested without incident at his residence in New York City on Tuesday, police said.

The New York Times identified the victim of the attack as Vilma Kari, an immigrant from the Philippines, citing a law enforcement source. An NYPD spokesman declined to confirm her identity. According to the Times, Kari suffered a fractured pelvis.

There has been an increase in hate crimes reported against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Former President Donald Trump often referred to the novel coronavirus as the “China virus” and the “China plague.”

Such crimes rose by 149% in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Concern over anti-Asian hate crimes was heightened when six Asian women were among eight people fatally shot this month at Atlanta-area spas. A 21-year-old man was charged with the murders. Police have yet to determine a motive.

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday announced a set of measures responding to anti-Asian violence in the United States, including deploying $49.5 million from COVID-19 relief funds for U.S. community programs that help victims.

In Monday’s attack in New York, a security video showed witnesses inside the lobby of a building apparently watching the assault but making no effort to help the woman. One man shut the front door while the attacker walked away.

The Brodsky Organization, which owns and operates the building, said it has suspended two employees while it and an employees’ union investigate their response to the attack.

“We take this situation very seriously, and are committed to strengthening internal training, and working with our community to ensure the safety of our residents and neighbors,” the Brodsky Organization said in a statement.

“Had the men watching stepped in, I believe it would’ve helped the woman a lot,” New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “We need to be the ones leading and doing something to help, not standing by or closing the door on someone.”

New York police also are investigating an assault last week on a subway train against a young man who appeared to be Asian. The attack was captured on another widely viewed video. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said the man, who was left unconscious after he was pummeled and choked, has yet to report the crime.

—Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York, Gabriella Borter in Washington and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Will Dunham