‘I might be dead right now’: Asian man describes brutal attack on S.F. street
A string of attacks against Asian residents in the Bay Area has left members of the Asian American community on edge.
After a year of mostly staying inside his Vallejo home to avoid catching the coronavirus, 59-year-old Danilo Yuchang resolved that he needed to get out more. When his travel agency announced it would begin in-person business at its downtown San Francisco office Monday, Yuchang thought, “Why not?”
The Filipino Chinese man was walking on Market Street, headed back to the office from his lunch break after picking up siomai at a Chinatown restaurant, when somebody shoved him from behind, knocking him to the ground. Yuchang lost consciousness as the person struck him repeatedly, breaking bones in his face and bruising his eyes until they were almost swollen shut.
When he came to, a doorman from a nearby hotel was tapping him, handing him napkins and asking if he was OK. Yuchang noticed his blood splattered on the sidewalk and thought he had been stabbed.
“I’m lucky,” he said in an interview Thursday. “If I was stabbed, I might be dead right now.”
Yuchang is among numerous victims in a string of attacks against Asian residents in the Bay Area that has sent law enforcement scrambling and kept members of the Asian American community on edge.
In the past week, police have arrested several suspects linked to recent attacks, including Jorge Devis-Milton, 32, who they allege beat up Yuchang and another man Monday afternoon. Devis-Milton was booked into San Francisco County Jail on Tuesday on several charges, including assault and battery.
Police say Devis-Milton first attacked a 64-year-old white man about 30 minutes before Yuchang was assaulted. That man, who was not identified, was also knocked to the ground and suffered a stab wound to his cheek, San Francisco police spokesman Robert Rueca said. He was transported with injuries that were described as life-threatening to a local hospital, where he continues to receive medical attention, authorities said.
Yuchang spoke to The Times on Thursday while en route to the hospital for a checkup on his left eye, which continues to bleed. He has a hard time remembering things since the attack, he said. After the hospital trip, he said he planned to stay home for several weeks.
“Emotionally, I’m still traumatized by what happened to me,” Yuchang said.
Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center born of San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, tracked more than 3,700 self-reported hate instances across the U.S. over the past year. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, a research office at Cal State San Bernardino, found a total of 122 anti-Asian hate crimes last year in a survey of police departments in 16 major U.S. cities — a 149% increase from the 49 in 2019.
San Francisco police conducted 17 hate crime investigations in 2020, up from six a year before, according to SFPD data. Almost 12% of hate crimes in 2020 were directed at Asians, Rueca said.
“We don’t know whether there’s an issue of either underreporting or just, we don’t know what,” Rueca said. “People would expect more, especially just with the recent issues that have occurred since the beginning of 2021.”
On Wednesday afternoon, San Francisco police arrested Steven Jenkins, who is accused of attacking an 83-year-old Asian man earlier that morning at the city’s U.N. Plaza. Rueca said a local security guard saw the attack and began to chase Jenkins.
While running away, Jenkins, 39, struck a 75-year-old Asian woman at 7th and Market streets, in the heart of San Francisco’s Theater District, Rueca said. Both attacks were unprovoked, police said.
KPIX-TV Channel 5 reported that the woman, Xiao Zhen Xie, defended herself by punching her attacker. Her grandson John Chen wrote in a GoFundMe account that his grandmother — a 26-year San Francisco resident — has a bruised wrist and eyes that are swollen shut and bleeding, and he said she is “severely affected mentally, physically, and emotionally.”
“She is afraid to step out of her home from now on,” Chen wrote online. “This traumatic event has left her with PTSD.”
Rueca said Jenkins was hospitalized for unrelated injuries.
Also on Wednesday, San Francisco police arrested three men suspected of ambushing a 67-year-old Asian man at a laundromat near Nob Hill and Chinatown almost a month earlier. Security video shows the man sitting beside the laundromat window shortly before 10 p.m. Feb. 23 when the three men walked in, kicked him off his chair and dragged him to the ground.
The man told police that his assailants “threw him to the ground, assaulted him, stole his property and fled the scene,” authorities said in a news release.
After nearly a month of investigation, police arrested Antioch residents Calvin Berschell, 19; Jason Orozco, 20; and Nolowde Beshears, 19. Police said they suspect the three are also responsible for multiple auto burglaries around the laundromat shortly before the attack.
All three were booked at the San Francisco County Jail on multiple charges, including second-degree burglary and inflicting injury on an elder.
Across various city social media channels, San Francisco leaders have voiced support for the city’s Asian community.
“San Francisco is a beacon of diversity. Let’s continue this legacy together by putting a stop to all anti-Asian discrimination. No bias. No hate. No violence. #COVID19 virus has no race or nationality. It is simply a disease,” tweeted the city’s Department of Emergency Management.
In a separate tweet, San Francisco police acknowledged “an alarming spike in brazen anti-Asian violence in recent weeks” and pledged to increase patrols in predominantly Asian neighborhoods. Police Chief Bill Scott also tweeted support for those affected by the Atlanta shootings.
“@SFPD stands in solidarity with our AAPI community against these horrific crimes. Working together, we must prevent violence and hold perpetrators accountable to #StopAsianHate,” Scott tweeted.
But curbing the wave of anti-Asian attacks may be too little, too late for some San Francisco residents.
A Bay Area resident of almost 21 years, Yuchang said he’s often walked home late at night, unconcerned about his safety. But such a traumatic incident in broad daylight on busy Market Street — particularly in light of other attacks on Asian people — disturbed him. Now, he said, San Francisco feels unsafe, and he is seriously considering moving with his wife to Indiana, where his sister lives.
“I don’t know why this is happening to us,” Yuchang said. “I just want to bring awareness to people that they have to be very careful. It’s not very safe.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.