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Asian American Attacks: San Francisco Police Arrest Suspect in Unprovoked Market Street Assaults

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Police in San Francisco on Thursday announced the arrest of the suspect in the attacks of two elderly Asian victims near Market Street Wednesday morning.

The attacks made headlines Wednesday after one of the victims, San Francisco resident Xiao Zhen Xie, turned the tables on her assailant, fighting back before he was detained and taken into custody.

Police have identified the suspect as 39-year-old Steven Jenkins. He currently faces charges of assault and elder abuse.

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Police said officers from the Tenderloin Station first received reports of an assault in the area of 7th and Market streets at around 10:10 a.m.. Arriving officers found two victims -- an 83-year-old Vietnamese man named Ngoc Pham and a 75-year-old Asian woman, later identified as Xie.

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After Xie fought back against Jenkins and he was arrested, both Xie and Pham were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police said officers took custody of Jenkins after he was detained by a nearby security guard. Witnesses told officers that Jenkins was involved in a physical altercation in U.N. Plaza approximately 30 minutes prior to the two assaults.

Following the altercation at U.N. Plaza, Jenkins approached Pham as he walked away from the nearby farmer's market and assaulted him. The security guard was informed of the assault and pursued Jenkins on foot. Police said that it was as Jenkins fled the area that he assaulted Xie and she retaliated. The security guard was then able to detain Jenkins until officers arrived.

ALSO READ: Suspect Arrested In Latest Oakland Attack On Elderly Asian Man Identified

Jenkins was transported to a local hospital for an unrelated, prior medical condition. He was later booked at San Francisco County Jail on two charges of assault likely to produce great bodily injury  and two charges of elder abuse.

From her senior retirement home in San Francisco, Xie candidly talked to KPIX in an exclusive interview about the attack and her injuries, with her daughter Dong-Mei Li interpreting.

"Very traumatized, very scared and this eye is still bleeding," Li told KPIX 5. "The right eye still cannot see anything and still bleeding and we have something to absorb the bleeding."

Surrounded by her family, Xie, who has resided in San Francisco for 26 years, said she was quite shaken up by the unprovoked attack. In the moment, her instinct was to fight back.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose 150% in 2020, even as hate crimes overall declined. In January, a 91-year-old man was shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown. An assault in San Francisco killed 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, while another assault left 75-year-old Pak Ho dead in Oakland last week.

The wave of incidents has sparked rallies throughout the Bay Area condemning anti-Asian violence and more than $1.4 million in state funding to track and stop the attacks.

Police said both assaults are believed to have been unprovoked. Investigators are trying to determine if racial bias was a motivating factor in the incident.

The other victim, 83-year-old Pham, continued to recover from his injuries, which included a fractured nose and possibly-fractured neck. The Community Youth Center of San Francisco set up a GoFundMe fundraising page for Pham to raise money to pay for medical costs; the goal is $25,000.

While an arrest has been made, the attacks remain open investigations. Anyone with information on the assaults is asked to call the SFPD Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.

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