NEW YORK - A parolee convicted of killing his mother nearly two decades ago was arrested on charges including felony assault as a hate crime for attacking an Asian American woman in Hell's Kitchen, the NYPD announced.
Brandon Elliot, 38, was taken into custody early Wednesday morning in connection with the vicious assault on Vilma Kari, 65, as she was on her way to church Monday. The horrifying incident was caught on surveillance video.
Elliot, who is Black, was living at a hotel on West 40th St. in Manhattan that serves as a homeless shelter. He was convicted of stabbing his mother to death in the Bronx in 2002, when he was 19. He was released from prison in 2019 and is on lifetime parole. The parole board had previously twice denied his release. His record also included an arrest for robbery in 2000.
"For the life of me, I don’t understand why we are releasing or pushing people out of prison — not to give them second chances, but to put them into homeless facilities or shelters, or in this case a hotel — and expect good outcomes," Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said at a news conference Wednesday. "We need real opportunities. We need real safety nets."
Elliot faces charges of assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, assault and attempted assault in Monday's attack, said police. It wasn't immediately known whether he had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Elliot faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The Legal Aid Society, which is representing him, said in a statement, "We strongly urge the public to reserve judgment until all the facts are presented in court."
Kari's daughter told The New York Times that she had immigrated from the Philippines. Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez said the victim is Filipino American.
The country's foreign secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr., condemned the attack in a Twitter post, saying "This is gravely noted and will influence Philippine foreign policy."
Locsin did not elaborate how the attack could influence Philippine policy toward the United States. The countries are longtime treaty allies and the Philippine leader, Rodrigo Duterte, is a vocal critic of U.S. security policies who has moved to terminate a key agreement that allows largescale military exercises with American forces in the Philippines.
"I might as well say it, so no one on the other side can say, `We didn't know you took racial brutality against Filipinos at all seriously.' We do," Locsin said.
Kari was walking to church in midtown Manhattan when police said a man kicked her in the stomach, knocked her to the ground, stomped on her face, shouted anti-Asian slurs and told her, "you don't belong here" before casually walking away
Police shared a video of the disturbing incident, which took place at about 11:40 a.m. in front of 360 West 43 Street.
A man inside the building lobby seemingly stopped what he was doing to watch the assault and later two more men wearing blazers walk into the frame and one of them closes the door as the woman was on the ground.
According to the real estate website Street Easy, Brodsky Organization is the property developer and manager of the building where the incident took place.
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On Brodsky's Instagram account, the group said they were aware of the incident and the staff who witnessed the account were suspended pending an investigation. The organization also said they were working to identify a third-party delivery vendor who was also present during the assault.
Residents of the building defended the workers Wednesday in a letter to the management company and the media. They contend that a video clip focusing on the suspect and the assault was "unfortunately cut to inadvertently exclude the compassionate action" taken by the staff, which they said included giving the victim aid and alerting medics.
Elliot faces several charges including two counts of assault as a hate crime.
NYPD says there have been 33 hate crimes with an Asian victim so far this year, news outlets reported.
The surge in violence has been linked in part to misplaced blame for the coronavirus pandemic and former President Donald Trump’s use of terms like "Chinese virus."
"This brave woman belongs here," Vance said. "Asian American New Yorkers belong here. Everyone belongs here."
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea previously said the department would increase its outreach and patrols in predominantly Asian communities amid the spike of anti-Asian hate crimes.
In a warning to would-be attackers, Shea said: "The next person you target, whether it's through speech, menacing activity or anything else, walking along a sidewalk or on a train platform, may be a plainclothes New York City police officer. So think twice."
Joo Han, the deputy director of the Asian American Federation, called the plainclothes patrols a "knee-jerk response" that ignored misgivings she said many people in Asian communities have about law enforcement.
"That wasn’t something that was done in conversation with community leaders," Han said. "That’s not something that we would have recommended. That’s not safe for a lot of folks who may not have status, who don’t have comfortable interactions with NYPD."
According to a report from Stop AAPI Hate, over 3,795 incidents were reported to the organization from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021. The organization said that number is "only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur."
With The Associated Press