Oakland, California — Police here announced an arrest Tuesday in an assault and robbery that critically injured a 75-year-old Asian-American man. An official in Oakland's Chinatown community told CBS San Francisco the victim was brain dead from the critical injuries he suffered in the attack.
Authorities have been trying to address attacks on older Asian citizens in San Francisco, Oakland and elsewhere.
In a two-week span in February, authorities recorded 18 crimes against Asian-Americans around Oakland's Chinatown, according Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. She has launched a special unit within her department to investigate the attacks.
Such attacks have been on the rise nationwide due to anti-Asian sentiment spurred by politicians such as former President Trump who've blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement Tuesday evening calling the attack "reprehensible," adding that police would "investigate thoroughly to determine whether this was racially motivated or a vile crime of opportunity."
The attack happened just before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Representatives of Oakland's Chinatown community say the victim was shoved to the ground and suffered life-threatening injuries. Police said the Oakland resident was also robbed.
Officers and investigators spent the day collecting evidence and later took the suspect into custody. The suspect wasn't identified.
"I am saddened to hear of yet another violent attack on the elders of our community," said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong. "The trauma this causes has a ripple effect, on the victim, their family, and the entire community. My officers are dedicated to bringing those involved in this senseless crime and all crimes to justice."
Neighbors say the victim was taking his usual morning walk when he was attacked. One told CBS San Francisco she recognized him as soon as she saw him being loaded into the ambulance.
Florence Williams said she "was very sad. Very sad. And I was telling the officers, 'I hope you guys catch him real soon.' Because nobody deserves that. Nobody."
Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan said this latest attack goes to show the spike in violence is not just in the Chinatown area, but targeting elderly Asian-Americans across the city.
"When I heard about this…it's just so hurtful. I know people are saying that they're angry. I'm not angry. I'm so sad," Chan said.
Chan would like to see more patrols in the area. "We're so hoping that this kind of crimes and attack don't happen again. Not only to the Asian community. We just don't want that to happen to anyone at all," he stressed.
Tuesday night, the Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Task Force held a listening session to gather public input on public safety and violent crime in Oakland. Liz, an advisory board member, said the recent attacks show a need to invest in communities and not the police.
"The years of results of de-investment is being very hard felt by the black community and communities of color and the Asian community is now feeling the brunt of that at this moment," she said.
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