An elderly Asian woman who was brutally attacked on a crowded San Francisco street beat her alleged assailant with a stick and left him bloodied. The incident happened less than a day after a mass shooting in Atlanta ended in the deaths of eight people, six of them Asian women.
Xiao Zhen Xie, 76, was waiting at a traffic light on the corner of Market Street Wednesday when she says a man suddenly punched her in the face, local media outlet KPIX reported. Before police arrived, Xie fought back with a two-foot stick.
“She found the stick around the area and fought back,” her daughter told KPIX. A video taken by a KPIX journalist who was out for a morning run shows Xiao Zhen Xie holding a stick and shouting at a man on a stretcher as he’s receiving attention from EMTs. The man’s face is bloody, and he appears to be dazed.
“This bum, he hit me,” Xie told a gathering crowd in Chinese, crying as she held the stick she’d used to defend herself.
The man was sent to the hospital, but the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement to VICE News that the man was taken to the hospital to treat a “prior, unrelated medical condition.”
In an emotional interview with KPIX later that day, Xie’s left eye was still bleeding and swollen, and she sobbed while her daughter explained how the attack took place.
The 39-year-old man suspected of attacking Xie has not been named, but he is under investigation for the alleged attack, as well as a previous one on an 83-year-old man that occurred in San Francisco’s UN Plaza about half an hour before the attack on Xiao Zhen Xie, SFPD’s statement said. Police said they are trying to determine the role bias played in the attacks.
Police say the alleged attacker was chased by a security guard and assaulted Xiao Zhen Xie while he was fleeing. The suspect was detained by the security guard until the cops arrived. Police said they’re trying to determine the role bias played in the attacks but so far believe both were unprovoked.
The incident in San Francisco was the latest in a wave of attacks against Asian-Americans, in the Bay Area and nationwide, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Georgia police arrested a man accused of killing eight people, six of them Asian women, as part of a murder spree targeting massage parlors in the Atlanta area.
The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, allegedly claimed the attacks weren’t racially motivated, but the majority of those killed were Asian women. At a press conference Wednesday, officials from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department seemed to downplay the role racism played in the shootings and instead alluded to claims that Long made about a “sex addiction.” Sex worker advocates have since spoken up saying that racism and anti-sex work discrimination are linked.
In the wake of the Atlanta killings, police in Seattle and New York City said they would increase police presence in Asian-American communities. On Wednesday, San Francisco followed suit.
“We are coordinating with our federal partners and local AAPI community organizations and stepping up our patrols in predominantly Asian neighborhoods,” SFPD wrote in a tweet. “As you may know, the San Francisco Bay Area has been seeing an alarming spike in brazen anti-Asian violence in recent weeks.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. last March, there have been thousands of reports of “hate incidents” against Asian Americans, according to a report released Tuesday by Stop AAPI Hate. The report was released the same day as the Georgia shootings.
As for Xiao Zhen Xie, she currently cannot see out of her left eye and hasn’t been able to eat, her daughter told KPIX. She has lived in San Francisco for 26 years and currently resides at a retirement home.
Her family set up a GoFundMe to help her cover medical expenses, therapy, and more, setting a goal of $50,000. That goal was exceeded Thursday morning, and currently has more than $55,000 in pledged donations.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Xiao Zhen Xie sent her attacker to the hospital, based on prior reports. SFPD told VICE News in an email after publication that the suspect was taken to the hospital to treat a “prior, unrelated condition.”