Watch CBS News

Public Defender: Attack on Elderly Asian Woman in San Francisco Not Racially Motivated

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Newly-released surveillance video shows that a beating suspect was himself a victim of assault moments before he allegedly attacked an elderly Asian woman in San Francisco, striking her so badly she temporarily couldn't see out of one eye.

Xiao Zhen Xie, just after being attacked on Market Street in San Francisco
Xiao Zhen Xie, just after being attacked on Market Street in San Francisco

"I think the most important goal right now is to communicate to the public that this was not racially motivated, this was not a hate crime," said San Francisco deputy public defender Eric McBurney.

His office, which released the video, shows 39-year-old Steven Jenkins in a physical altercation with at least three different people, including one man who follows Jenkins.

The video cuts to Jenkins walking away from the man toward a street corner where 76-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie was standing by a traffic light.

Jenkins appears to throw something at his assailant then seconds later hits Xie in the face. The aftermath of Xie's attack went viral and was captured by KPIX sports director Dennis O'Donnell who happened to be walking in the area.

Xiao Zhen Xie, Steven Jenkins
Xiao Zhen Xie, Xiao Zhen Xie (holding baton) approaches Steven Jenkins (being held by security guard). (Photo via San Francisco Public Defender's Office)

Xie is seen in the surveillance video picking up a large wooden stick and hitting Jenkins in the legs after a security guard tackles him to the ground.

Jenkins is also accused of punching 83-year-old Ngoc Pham, which was not seen in the surveillance video released Thursday.

McBurney said they're investigating whether Jenkins' actions were intentional, volitional or if he mistook Xie and Pham for his assailants.

He said Jenkins suffers from mental health issues and is homeless.

"This doesn't take away from the tragedy of what happened to Mrs. Xiao and Mr. Pham but that's the other message in this, it's a tragedy and there's three victims of assault," McBurney said. "Everyone is wearing masks now, including his assailants and including Mrs. Xiao and Mr. Pham. It is my argument that at that point he is dazed and he is concussed."

Legal analyst and former prosecutor Steven Clark, who looked at the surveillance video, said that, although it shows a chaotic scene, it doesn't justify Jenkins' actions.

"What a prosecutor will look at in this video is that the only people that this gentleman attacked were two elderly Asians and they were defenseless and had nothing to do with his initial altercation. The DA will point out that this is the essence of a hate crime," Clark said. "He could've hit a lot of people in that plaza because he was angry but he picked these two elderly Asians. That is going to be a very big problem for the public defender."


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.