SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- An elderly woman being attacked on Market Street in San Francisco Wednesday - the latest victim in a wave of attacks on Asians in the Bay Area - turned the tables on her assailant, leaving him with injuries that required a trip to the hospital.
The incident happened at Market St. and Charles J. Brenham Place near McAllister St. at around 10:30 a.m. San Francisco police said they are investigating an aggravated assault by a man who appears to be in his 30s on a 70-year-old woman.
Coming upon the scene during his morning run was KPIX Sports Director Dennis O'Donnell.
The victim appears to have suffered an injury to the side of her face and eye and was seen holding an ice pack to her face. Police said both the assailant and the victim were taken to a hospital for treatment.
Witnesses told KPIX 5 they saw the woman pummeling the assailant. In a video taken at the scene, the alleged assailant is handcuffed to a stretcher with his face bloodied. The sobbing victim appears to berate the man and wave what looks to be a wooden board at him as he's being taken away.
"You bum, why did you hit me?" the woman said to the man on the stretcher in Chinese.
The woman then turned to the crowd of people who had gathered, saying, "This bum, he hit me," as she raised the stick she held and sobbed. "He hit me, this bum," she repeated.
The woman added that she had been leaning against a light pole and all of a sudden, the man punched her without provocation.
"The woman said that she was hit," O'Donnell says. "She attacked back. From what I could see, she wanted more of the guy on the stretcher and the police were holding her back."
Police did not disclose a motive for the attack and it was not clear whether the victim's race had anything to do with the assault. Officers also say there was a second victim this morning, an 83-year-old Asian man.
A 39-year-old man is now being investigated for both attacks, and police say they are working to determine if bias was a factor.
"We have to do our job and we have to investigate these cases with all resources brought to bear and we need to make arrests, and we've done that," San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said Wednesday.
From her senior retirement home in San Francisco, Xiao Zhen Xie candidly talked to KPIX 5 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.
Both the police chief and the mayor highlighted the arrests made in connection with previous attacks in the city, promising more targeted patrols.
"We need to understand, not only what is going on, but why these attacks occur," said Mayor London Breed. "Because in some cases they didn't include any robbery or theft."
As for one case that did include robbery; police have announced three arrests in connection with the violent attack caught on camera in a San Francisco laundromat. Police say the suspects, arrested in Antioch, are also tied to 8 car burglaries in the city.
"Again, you have a small group of individuals," Scott said. "All of those three that were arrested live outside the city."
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 94-year-old Vichar Ratanapakdee, while another assault left 75-year-old Pak Ho dead in Oakland last week.
Most recently, 59-year-old Danny Yu Chang was severely beaten on San Francisco's Market St. on Monday, leaving him with serious injuries.
And for every crime reported, state Assemblyman David Chui (D-San Francisco) says there are more that aren't.
"It's not just the incredible violence in a number of incidents, but how racism has manifested itself in so many ways," said Chiu.
Chiu and other Asian American and Pacific Islanders are proposing a statewide hotline for reporting and dealing with hate crimes, as well as legislations for restorative justice programs. They also want Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint an attorney general from the community.
The group Stop AAPI Hate said over the past year there have been nearly 4,000 hate incidents against Asians across the U.S. Chiu says 1,600 of those attacks were in California.
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