By: Rachel Treisman, NPR
Manhattan, NY — Authorities have arrested a suspect in the verbal and physical assault on a 65-year-old Asian woman in New York City on Monday, in an attack that was captured on surveillance video and drew widespread outrage.
Brandon Elliot, 38, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with two counts of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault, the New York City Police Department confirmed to NPR.
In a tweet announcing the arrest, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea described Elliot as “a parolee out on supervised release.”
Elliot was arrested in 2000 for robbery and 2002 for murder, according to police. The Associated Press reports that Elliot was convicted of stabbing his mother to death in the Bronx when he was 19, and is on lifetime parole after being released from prison in 2019.
Police said he was identified through “multiple tips” and apprehended at his residence, which they listed as the address of a hotel that is currently serving as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, located several blocks from the site of the attack in midtown Manhattan.
The assault took place outside an apartment building in broad daylight, just before noon on Monday.
Surveillance video shows the suspect kicking the woman to the ground, stomping on her head and upper body several times and casually walking away as she remained on the sidewalk. Police have said that he made “anti-Asian statements” during the assault, including reportedly telling her “you don’t belong here.”
The unnamed victim was hospitalized at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan with a fractured pelvis and head contusion, according to media reports. A hospital official confirmed to NPR that she was discharged on Tuesday.
The New York Times has identified her as Vilma Kari, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines several decades ago.
The video also appears to show apartment staff watching the attack without intervening, then closing the door on the woman as she attempted to stand up.
The Brodsky Organization, which manages the building, said in a statement that it is working with Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which represents the door staff, to investigate the response of the two lobby staffers present, who have been suspended.
In a statement condemning the attack, Local 32BJ president Kyle Bragg said Tuesday, “The information we have at the moment is that the door staff … called for help immediately,” and he urged the public to “avoid a rush to judgement while the facts are determined.”
Still, the apparent inaction of multiple bystanders as shown on the video clip struck a nerve, with many social media users and public officials speaking out in shock and horror.
“The reports of a brutal assault on an Asian American woman in Midtown are absolutely horrifying and repugnant,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “We are all New Yorkers — no matter how we look or what language we speak — and we must always look out for one another and help those who need it.”
Cuomo had also directed the N.Y. State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist the NYPD in its investigation.
Andrew Yang, the former Democratic presidential candidate who is running for New York City mayor, said in an interview with CNN that he believed the bystanders could have “done a lot of good” by interrupting the attack or seeking medical attention for the woman. He called on viewers to take action if they are ever in a similar situation.
“That has to be the message to people in New York City and really everywhere around the country, that if you see something, you have to do something,” he said. “And I was in a situation like this not that long ago — if one person acts, then other people will act along with them. But a lot of folks need someone to lead the way.”
The assault is one of several recent high-profile attacks that have targeted Asian Americans in New York and across the country. Such incidents have risen dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, attacks which advocates and experts attribute in large part to xenophobic rhetoric.
Citing a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, the NYPD said last week that it will increase outreach and patrols in Asian communities, including the use of undercover officers, in an effort to prevent and disrupt attacks.
At the federal level, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced half a dozen actions aimed at addressing the rise in attacks and harassment targeted at Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S.
“Across our nation, an outpouring of grief and outrage continues at the horrific violence and xenophobia perpetrated against Asian American communities, especially Asian American women and girls,” the White House said in a statement. “As President Biden said during his first prime time address, anti-Asian violence and xenophobia is wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”