New video released Wednesday by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office shows a man getting brutally beat by a group of people in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood — just moments before he then himself attacks two elderly Asian victims unprovoked.
Steven Jenkins, 39, is accused of attacking 83-year-old Ngoc Pham and 75-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie without provocation on March 17 near Market and Seventh streets. Jenkins has since been charged with two counts each of battery, assault and elder abuse.
The attacks, which left Pham with facial fractures and Xie with black eyes, have been highly publicized on social media and caused outrage amid an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide. Although investigators said they were looking into whether the attack was racially motivated, Jenkins has not been charged with a hate crime.
“These are two deeply troubling assaults of elderly Asian Americans in our community, at a time when Asian Americans locally and nationally are suffering from an escalation of violence and anti-Asian racism,” Jenkins’ attorney Deputy Public Defender Eric McBurney said in a statement. “However, this situation is much more complex than it may appear. Based on the facts that I have reviewed, I do not believe that Mr. Jenkins’s actions were racially motivated.”
According to McBurney, Jenkins, who is homeless and suffers from mental health issues, had been attacked himself just before striking Xie and Pham.
The new surveillance video shows multiple people at the U.N. Plaza attacking Jenkins, striking him dozens of times on the head over a course of a few minutes, just minutes before Jenkins then attacks Xie and Pham.
“On that day, Mr. Jenkins himself was the victim of an unprovoked attack by four unknown assailants who struck him over forty times immediately before he was seen striking Mr. Pham and Ms. Xiao. Due to the initial attack, Mr. Jenkins suffered multiple head injuries, and I believe that he was in a diminished mental state, and disoriented as a result, when he encountered Mr. Pham and Ms. Xiao just moments later,” McBurney said.
“What happened that day was not the norm for him. He has no prior convictions for physically hurting anyone. He has struggled throughout his life on the street, largely ignored by society. Even when he is attacked and hit over 40 times in broad daylight in the busy UN plaza, not one person comes to his aid,” he said.
The assailants who attacked Jenkins have not been identified, McBurney said.
Jenkins remains in custody and is being held without bail, according to jail records.