THE suspect in the brazen and unprovoked attack on a 65-year-old Filipino American woman who was walking to church in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood earlier this week has been arrested.
The New York City Police Department on Wednesday, March 31 said that they arrested the suspect on charges including felony assault as a hate crime for the attack. They identified the man as Brandon Elliot, 38, a parolee convicted of killing his mother in 2002.
Less than 48 hours earlier, the suspect was seen on CCTV video assaulting the victim identified as Vilma Kari, who immigrated from the Philippines decades ago, according to a New York Times interview with her daughter.
He faces two counts of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault, police said.
According to the authorities, the 38-year-old Elliot was arrested in July 2002 in the Bronx for fatally stabbing his mother. He was released on lifetime parole in November 2019 after serving 17 years in state prison.
Thanks to assistance from the public and excellent investigative work by @NYPDHateCrimes Detectives, the individual wanted for Monday’s assault of a 65 year-old Asian female, at 360 West 43rd St, was arrested and charged with Felony Assault as a Hate Crime. pic.twitter.com/ZQRVGZEAb2
— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) March 31, 2021
In a tweet, ABC7 reporter CeFaan Kim said that Elliot was identified by residents as a local homeless person and based on tips sent to the police, he was staying in a hotel serving as a homeless shelter on West 40th Street.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the incident among “the horrible, disgusting attacks on Asian American New Yorkers, and it’s got to end and we’re going to use every tool we have.” He said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that none of the witnesses did not intervene.
The disturbing surveillance footage released by the NYPD showed the building’s doorman shutting the door on the helpless victim who sustained serious injuries.
“Look, I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you do, you’ve got to help your fellow New Yorker,” de Blasio said.
The building’s management company issued a statement on Instagram saying “the staff who witnessed the attack have been suspended pending an investigation in conjunction with their union” and that it was working to identify a “third-party vendor present during the incident so that appropriate action can be taken.”
“And if you see someone being attacked, do whatever you can – make noise, call out what’s happening, go and try and help immediately call for help, call 9-1-1,” de Blasio added. “I mean, this is something where we all have to be part of the solution. We can’t just stand back and watch a heinous act happening.”
Borough of Manhattan President Gale Brewer organized a rally on Tuesday afternoon in front of the luxury apartment building where the attack happened.
Community leaders and elected officials led by Rep. Jerry Nadler and Asian American Federation’s JoAnn Yoo were among the speakers who expressed their disgust about the senseless violence against Asian Americans and the witnesses who just watched and did nothing.
“Damn it, I am so sick and tired standing here demanding something to be done for my people,” an emotional Yoo said. “She is lying in the hospital right now. We don’t know how to help her. Everybody is reaching out to me because the community wants to stand by her.”
Yoo also mentioned the symbolism of holding the gathering in front of the building where Kari was attacked.
“We’re standing in front of the building that pretty much closed their door on a woman lying on the sidewalk. Isn’t that the perfect symbolism of what is happening right now,” she said. “We don’t want your thoughts and prayers anymore. We demand action and we demand resources so we can train volunteers to run programs to keep people safe.”
Deirdre Levy, a Filipina-Jewish special education teacher and candidate for New York’s 35th Council District, said Monday’s attack made her worry for the safety of her Filipina relatives.
“I couldn’t believe that a Filipina woman was attacked in broad daylight and told ‘You don’t belong here.’ We should never be made to feel like we don’t belong or attacked for who we are,” she told the Asian Journal. “As a Filipina American, I worry about my mom and titas as this could have happened to them. I am still trying to go by every day life as normal and would like to hone in on my self-defense skills and find ways to protect other Filipinos because we do matter and we do belong here.”
Some of New York City leaders and officials n Wednesday, March 31 discussed efforts to combat anti-Asian violence in an online event dubbed Stop Asian Hate.
Among the speakers was Carmelyn Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She expressed her feelings about how this most recent attack hit close to home.
“As a Filipino American woman myself, I couldn’t help but think that it could also happen to my mother or grandmother,” she said. “To have that experience and to see it happen, it is something. She was going to church, most Filipinos go to church daily during Holy Week.”
She described that many people, including her, found it jarring that the witnesses closed the door on the victim which is also what makes this incident stand out.
“That is definitely troubling to me, that there was a witness who closed the door and exacerbated the victim’s situation,” she said. “And that is not who we are. That is not the New York we know and love
Commissioner Malalis also talked about the recent public awareness campaign that CCHR implemented, featuring Asian and Pacific Islander New Yorkers.
Brooklyn-based artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya created posters which contain messages such as, “This is our home too,” “We belong here,” and, “I am not your scapegoat.”
According to the NYPD, Kari’s attacker screamed “F*** you, you don’t belong here,” as he kicked and stomped on her head multiple times.
The public art project is ongoing and Malalis said they are going to the neighborhood where Kari’s attack happened to distribute posters to the businesses in the area.
“This is a visible way to support AAPI communities and it gives voice to Asians and Pacific Islanders’ fight against anti-Asian racism and violence,” she said.