An attack on an Asian American woman who was headed to church near New York City’s Times Square is drawing widespread condemnation and raising alarms about the failure of bystanders to intervene amid a rash of anti-Asian violence across the U.S.
Brandon Elliott, 38, was arrested hours after being recorded on surveillance video Monday kicking the 65-year-old woman in the stomach, knocking her to the ground and stomping on her face, all as police say he shouted anti-Asian slurs at her.
The attack happened outside an apartment building two blocks from Times Square, a bustling, heavily policed section of midtown Manhattan.
Two workers inside the building who appeared to be security guards were seen on the surveillance video witnessing the attack but failing to come to the woman’s aid. Their union said they called for help immediately. The attacker was able to casually walk away while onlookers watched, the video showed.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the video of the attack “absolutely disgusting and outrageous” and said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that witnesses did not intervene.
“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 Tuesday at his daily news briefing.
“If you see someone being attacked, do whatever you can,” he said. “Make noise. Call out what’s happening. Go and try and help. Immediately call for help. Call 911. 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.”
The attack comes amid a national spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, and happened just weeks after a mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent. The surge in violence has been linked in part to misplaced blame for the coronavirus and former President Donald Trump’s use of racially charged terms like “Chinese virus.” The NYPD said there have been 33 hate crimes with an Asian victim so far this year, news outlets reported.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the attack near Times Square “horrifying and repugnant.”
The assailant was convicted of stabbing his mother to death at age 19. He was released from prison in 2019 on lifetime parole and was living in a hotel serving as a homeless shelter a few blocks from the scene of the attack. Elliott is now charged with felony assault as a hate crime, among other charges.
The victim, 65-year-old Vilma Kari, an immigrant from the Philippines, was hospitalized with serious injuries on Tuesday and later discharged.
According to video footage of the New York City assault, the two people who appeared to be security guards walked into the frame and one of them closed the building door as the woman was on the ground.
The property developer and manager of the building, Brodsky Organization, wrote on Instagram that it was aware of the assault and said staff members who witnessed it were suspended pending an investigation.
The head of the union representing building workers disputed allegations that the door staff failed to act. He said the union has information that they called for help immediately.
“Our union is working to get further details for a more complete account, and urges the public to avoid a rush to judgment while the facts are determined,” SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg said in a written statement. He condemned the attack as “yet another example of the unbridled hate and terror” against Asian-Americans.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called Monday’s attack “disgusting.”
“I don’t know who attacks a 65-year-old woman and leaves her on the street like that,” Shea said Tuesday on TV station NY1.
Shea recently said the agency would increase its outreach and patrols in predominantly Asian communities.