Health

Asian immigrant attacked in hate crime last year dies

The man, Yao
Pan Ma, was pushing a grocery cart full of bottles and cans that he had
collected on April 23 when he was suddenly approached from behind and attacked
in East Harlem. He fell onto the sidewalk, was kicked in the head and stomped
on several times, police said.

Ma, 61, was
placed on a ventilator and remained hospitalized since the assault occurred
near 125th Street and Third Avenue. He had severe head injuries and there was
bleeding in his 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 Saturday that upgraded murder charges were expected to
be filed.

Ma’s death
on Dec 31 came at the end of a year in which similar unprovoked attacks on
Asian people prompted fear and led to protests in New York and across the
country.

The New York
Police Department received 128 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes through the
end of November. That represented a sharp rise from the 28 that were recorded
through that period in 2020. Community groups have said that anti-Asian attacks
have long been underreported because of language barriers and distrust of the
police.

Powell was
arrested days after the attack. The police found him at a shelter he had lived
in for about 10 months, according to court documents. A lawyer for Powell could
not immediately be reached Saturday.

Powell
denied “having problems with Asians” in interviews with officers, according to
court records. He said that he had been robbed a day before the attack by two
men, one Korean and one Japanese, but did not call 911 or offer physical
descriptions besides their ethnicities, the documents said.

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Powell
claimed that Ma was one of the men, according to the filings. He said he saw
him on the street the next day, and that he had been verbally provoked. When Ma
fell to the ground, Powell said he thought, “I am not going to let you up” and
began kicking him, the filings say.

His next
court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 10.

In New York,
to charge attacks like the one against Ma as hate crimes, prosecutors must show
that the victims were targeted because of their race. The police said that
surveillance camera footage suggested that Ma and his attacker had not
interacted before the assault, leading them to believe he may have been
targeted because of his race.

Ma’s wife,
Baozhen Chen, could not be reached Saturday for comment. In the spring, she
spoke to several local news outlets and said she feared that her husband would
“not make it” after the attack.

The pair
moved to New York City around 2019 from China’s Guangdong province, leaving
their two adult children behind. Ma had worked as a dessert chef in China, she
told the Daily News, but lost his job at a restaurant in New York during the
pandemic.

He was
ineligible for unemployment benefits, and began to collect cans on the street
starting in September 2020, she said.

Chen, a home
health care aide, said Ma regularly called her when he arrived at home, letting
her know that he had made it back safely. She worried after he failed to call
on the April night when she later learned that he had been attacked.

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“He was just
trying to help out the family,” Chen told the News. “He had no bad intentions.
He wouldn’t cause trouble with other people in his neighbourhood.”

© 2022 The New York Times Company

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