A man has been arrested in connection with a widely publicized assault on two elderly people near Seventh and Market Street, police said Thursday.
Steven Jenkins, 39, has been booked into San Francisco County Jail on suspicion of two counts of assault and elder abuse.
At around 10:10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jenkins allegedly attacked a 83-year-old man buying groceries, about 30 minutes after he was allegedly involved in another unrelated physical altercation in U.N Plaza. When a nearby security guard began to chase him on foot, Jenkins allegedly attacked a 75-year-old woman as she waited to cross the street, according to police. The two victims sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the attack.
Victim Xiao Zhen Xie defended herself against her attacker with a stick, leaving him with injuries that caused him to be transported to the hospital alongside her, according to a report by KPIX.
Police said the attacks were unprovoked, and it’s unclear if racial bias was a motivating factor. The victims are Chinese and Vietnamese, Jenkins is white.
The attack came the day after a deadly series of shootings in Atlanta that killed six Asian women and at a time of heightened anxiety over anti-Asian bias and attacks.
In response to the shootings, Mayor London Breed asked SFPD to increase patrol in neighborhoods with greater Asian populations on Wednesday.
“No one should have to live in fear that their race or ethnicity could make them a victim,” Breed tweeted.
Police Chief Bill Scott also expressed support for the traumatized Asian community.
“The Asian American-Pacific Islander community needs to know that we stand with them. We support them,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told reporters. “This is horrific. Any type of violent crime is horrific. But when people appear to be targeted because of their race or ethnicity, that is unacceptable.”
Xie has received an outpouring of support and nationwide news coverage following the attack. Her grandson, John Chen, set up a gofundme page to pay for medical expenses, and it has racked up over $350,000 in donations.
The Community Youth Center of San Francisco has also set up a gofundme page for Ngoc Pham, the second victim, which has raised almost $20,000 in the past hour that it’s been live.
For some, Xie has become a role model and an inspiration for defending herself during a time when many Asian Americans are feeling afraid of violent attacks.
“I’m having such a range of intense feelings these last few days but after watching your grandmother, I strangely felt empowered,” one donor wrote on the fundraising page. “Please let her know she has given me strength—be well.
“Please know that we are all very proud of your grandmother and what she did, standing up against this despicable and appalling hate crime,” said another donor. “My heart goes out to your grandmother and your family, and I hope the coward who did this to her will be brought to justice — to the fullest extent of the law.”
Despite the support, Xie’s family said she is still scared to leave the house, after sustaining a swollen wrist and two black eyes, one which is bleeding uncontrollably.
“We want to thank everyone that is donating and that has shown my family massive support through this very traumatic event. My heart is with all the other elderly Asians that [have] also been seriously injured or killed in this wave of attacks towards the Asian community,” Chen wrote on the page.