A Filipino American U.S. Army veteran from San Francisco was recently subjected to a racist tirade and injured in a physical attack in what is being considered a hate crime.
Ron Tuason — a 56-year-old longtime Bay Area resident who is of Filipino, Chinese and Spanish descent — was waiting for the bus after a trip to the grocery store in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood on March 13 when another man approached him and started spewing racial insults.
The man, who was wearing a Navy hat, pointed out Tuason’s veteran cap.
“He notices me and the color of my skin and the fact that I’m wearing a hat that says, ‘veteran.’ He ends up saying, ‘Get the hell out of my country, you caused this problem. Do you want to get hurt? You’re not a veteran, I’m a veteran,’” Tuason recounted in a recent interview with the Asian Journal.
The veteran, who uses a cane to walk, tried to record the incident on his cellphone until the man knocked it out of his hand. Then, the suspect started punching him several times, causing him to hit a fence and fall to the ground.
“There was a steel fence behind me and I hit my head on the pole, so I was really seeing the stars. I went down and my glasses flew off,” Tuason continued. “Because of the amount of weight in my backpack, I couldn’t get up unless I used both hands and I have mobility issues.”
Three witnesses came to Tuason’s aid by pulling the suspect off him and helping him get back up. San Francisco Police Department officers came within minutes after he called 911.
Officers were able to locate the suspect, identified as 53-year-old Victor Humberto Brown, shortly after at a nearby McDonald’s. Brown faces felony assault and hate crime charges.
The suspect was wanted on three separate warrants for violating probation in San Francisco, battery in San Jose and battery on a bus driver in Santa Clara County, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Tuason took photos of his injuries, which include a black eye and a swollen cheek, and also reported the incident to the Stop AAPI Hate website.
He said that after he appeared on the local news, individuals have since recognized him in public and have reportedly verbally harassed him. He continues to wear his veteran hat outside, a symbol of his service as a combat engineer in Louisiana and Germany in the 1980s.
“This story is bigger than me. What scares me right now is seeing this hateful trend. There have been negative comments on my story and when I’ve gone out to the store, people have recognized me and have given me funny looks. One individual even called me a racist slur,” Tuason recounted.
Since the March attack, Tuason said he is suffering from short-term memory loss and continues to have a hard time sleeping.
However, he said he will use this spotlight to speak up about anti-Asian attacks in hopes of seeking justice and preventing future attacks.
“People have been attacked, harassed or have had their vehicles broken into. If anything, San Francisco as a whole is a smokescreen. What’s really going on here is sad and it’s the reality a lot of us face. We don’t feel safe,” he said.