A 53-year-old man accused of yelling “go back to where you came from” before punching a man at a bus stop in Ingleside pleaded not guilty Friday to felony assault and hate crime charges.
Victor Humberto Brown is being held at County Jail in connection with the attack near Ocean and Plymouth avenues on the afternoon of March 13 that injured 56-year-old Army veteran Ron Tuason.
The attack comes amid heightened attention to violence against Asians in San Francisco and across the nation.
Tuason, an Asian American of Filipino descent, said in an interview Friday he had left his home in Parkmerced to get groceries when he was accosted by a man who was talking to himself.
The man told him to leave the country, using a racial slur, and blamed him for the pandemic, stating, “you started this problem,” according to Tuason. When Tuason asked the man what his problem was and tried to record him with his phone, the man “sucker punched” and kneed him, he said.
Tuason struck his head on a metal fence and was injured, he said, while the man was arrested around the corner after Tuason called 911.
Brown was booked on suspicion of various charges, as well as three arrest warrants out of San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, police said.
The District Attorney’s Office initially filed misdemeanor charges against him, but has since elevated the case to a felony with a hate crime enhancement based on race, ethnicity or national origin. He is also facing a misdemeanor drug charge for possession of a glass pipe.
In court Friday, Brown pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied all allegations through his attorney with the Public Defender’s Office.
At the time of the attack, Tuason said both he and his assailant were wearing military baseball caps. Tuason said the man told him “you’re not a veteran, I’m a veteran.”
In court, Brown told the judge he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, but the Public Defender’s Office said he is not believed to be a veteran and his PTSD is unrelated to military service.
“Mr. Brown is the proud father of three children, one of whom is a military veteran,” his attorney, Sylvia Cediel, said in a statement. “It was the prosecutor’s decision to elevate these charges from a misdemeanor to a felony despite no new facts in this case. I ask the public to reserve judgment until all facts come to light.”
Court records show Brown has four open cases out of Santa Clara County filed since last November, including one misdemeanor case over the alleged battery of a bus driver.
He also appears to be on probation out of San Mateo County after pleading no contest to misdemeanor assault and battery last November.
Tuason said he hopes his assailant receives some sort of sentence, but not the death penalty or detention in a “Supermax security prison.”
“I want to see fairness and justice,” Tuason said. “I don’t think he should walk free.”
Brown is currently being held on $100,000 bail. Assistant District Attorney Xochitl Carrion has asked that he be held in custody without the option of bail while awaiting trial.
A judge is expected decide on the detention motion next Tuesday.