An Asian immigrant to New York City died last week after being put into a coma by a brutal assault in April that police called a hate crime, officials said.
The man, Yao Pan Ma, was pushing a grocery cart full of bottles and cans he had collected on April 23 when he was suddenly approached from behind and attacked in East Harlem. He fell to the sidewalk, was kicked in the head and repeatedly stomped on, police said.
Mr. Ma, 61, has been placed on a ventilator and has been hospitalized since the assault occurred near 125th Street and Third Avenue. He had serious head injuries and was bleeding from the brain, officials said.
The man arrested in the attack, Jarrod Powell, 49, was charged with attempted murder and two counts of assault as a hate crime at the time. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said on Saturday that upgraded murder charges should be filed.
Mr. Ma’s death on December 31 came at the end of a year in which similar unprovoked attacks on Asians aroused fear and led to protests in New York City and across the country.
The New York Police Department has received 128 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes through the end of November. This is a large increase from the 28 recorded during that period in 2020. Community groups have said anti-Asian attacks have long been underreported due to language barriers and mistrust of the language. police.
Mr. Powell was arrested days after the attack. Police found him in a shelter where he had lived for about 10 months, according to court documents. A lawyer for Mr Powell could not be reached immediately on Saturday.
Mr Powell denied “having problems with Asians” in interviews with officers, court records show. He said he was robbed a day before the attack by two men, a Korean and a Japanese, but did not call 911 or offer physical descriptions outside of their ethnicity, according to the documents.
Mr. Powell claimed that Mr. Ma was one of the men, according to the documents. He said he saw him on the street the next day and was verbally provoked. When Mr. Ma fell to the ground, Mr. Powell said he thought, “I’m not going to let you down” and started kicking him, according to the documents.
His next court appearance is scheduled for February 10.
In New York City, to charge attacks like the one against Mr. Ma with hate crimes, prosecutors must show that the victims were targeted because of their race. Police said surveillance camera footage suggested that Mr. Ma and his assailant had not interacted prior to the assault, leading them to believe that he may have been targeted due to the assault. his race.
Mr. Ma’s wife Baozhen Chen could not be reached on Saturday for comment. In the spring, she spoke to several local news outlets and said she feared her husband “would not go away” after the attack.
The couple moved to New York in around 2019 from China’s Guangdong Province, leaving behind their two adult children. Mr Ma had worked as a dessert chef in China, she told the Daily News, but lost his job at a restaurant in New York City during the pandemic.
He was not entitled to unemployment benefits and started collecting cans from the streets from September 2020, she said.
Ms. Chen, a home health aide, said Mr. Ma called her regularly when he arrived home, letting her know that he had returned unharmed. She worried after he didn’t call on April night when she learned later that he had been attacked.
âHe was just trying to help the family,â Ms. Chen told The News. âHe didn’t have bad intentions. He wouldn’t cause problems for other people in his neighborhood.
Michel Gold contributed reports.