A 15-year-old was taken into custody Friday in the assault of an Asian couple in Tacoma, Wash., in November, police said. The arrest comes amid a trend of attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in recent months — some of them racially motivated and some deadly.
The unidentified teenager was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, according to police, after a video of the incident surfaced online this week.
In the video that was shared widely on social media, several young people are gathered in a street. A young man in a red hoodie runs into one of the victims, who police later said was a 56-year-old man, and falls to the ground. The attacker gets up and approaches the male victim, who had backed away.
The video cuts to a different view of the incident a few moments later and shows the man attempting to defend himself by kicking toward the attacker. The assailant then charges toward the couple and throws punches at the man as his female companion clings to his arm and screams.
The attacker in the red hoodie runs from the couple. Then the video cuts to the person behind the camera walking up to the male victim, saying “f----d your whole life up.”
The unidentified male victim told KIRO-TV that he filed a complaint for the Nov. 19 attack the same day but heard nothing from police. More than four months later, a family member identified the couple in the viral video of the incident when it was played on local news, according to CNN.
Wendy Haddow, a public information officer for the Tacoma police, told The Washington Post that the department has arrested one suspect so far, and “there is no known motive at this time.” She said in an email that it is “up to the prosecutor’s office if the additional charge of malicious harassment (hate crime) is added.”
Haddow said police did not contact the victims until this week because there were no leads in the case. Police didn’t have any information about the attacker other than his height, race and age (between 13 and 17).
She said the teen in custody is allegedly the one who threw the punches. He or one of his friends posted the video on social media, Haddow said.
The incident is part of a disturbing and growing trend of anti-Asian attacks since the start of the pandemic, according to research from Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit that runs the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center, which tracks incidents of discrimination, hate and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
More than 3,000 anti-Asian attacks happened between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, with the group estimating that the total is just a fraction of the real number of crimes against Asians that happen often at businesses and on public streets and sidewalks.
The male victim told KIRO-TV that he thinks he was attacked because he is Asian.
“I’m Asian, I’m older, and I’m not that big,” he told the station.
The man said that when they didn’t hear back from police, he and his family left Tacoma out of fear, the news outlet reported.
He told the station that four teens were involved in the attack and that he initially thought they were playing around. Then the punching started.
“A fist came flying in, hit me right here,” he said, pointing to the right side of his face. “I started bleeding.”
He called the police right after the incident, he told KIRO, told them what happened and didn’t hear from them until the clip of his attack was posted on Snapchat. The silence from police left the man questioning the importance of his complaint to the authorities.
While the victim said his life has been changed from the attack, he also forgives the teen.
“I want him to be better,” he said. “I want him to know this is bad.”