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Asian woman punched in the head more than 125 times in hate crime, police say

A man attacked a 67-year-old Asian woman in the vestibule of an apartment building March 11 in Yonkers, N.Y. (Yonkers Police Department/Reuters)
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A previous version of this article misspelled the suspect Tammel Esco's name in a photo caption. The article has been corrected.

A 67-year-old Asian woman was punched in the head and face more than 125 times, foot-stomped and spit on in a “brutal” hate crime in New York, police said. The woman, who is being treated at a hospital, suffered numerous contusions and lacerations, facial fractures and bleeding on the brain, police said.

The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was attacked Friday evening while attempting to enter an apartment building in Yonkers, N.Y. Surveillance video shows a man, identified by authorities as 42-year-old Tammel Esco, punch her from behind, knocking her down, then beat her for a minute and a half before leaving her writhing on the ground.

An investigation revealed Esco used a racial slur as the woman passed him moments before the attack, police said.

He was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder — both as a hate crime, police said.

“This is one of the most appalling attacks I have ever seen,” Yonkers Police Commissioner John J. Mueller said in a statement Monday. “To beat a helpless woman is despicable and targeting her because of her race makes it more so.

“This defendant must be held to the maximum punishment allowed by law to send a clear message that hateful, violent behavior will not be tolerated in our communities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim and her family, that she may make a full recovery.”

It was not immediately clear whether Esco, who is being held without bail, has an attorney in the case.

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Yonkers police officials said officers received a call about 6 p.m. Friday about a dispute and arrived to find a woman with severe injuries in the entryway of an apartment building.

Authorities said that during the police investigation, they discovered that Esco called the woman an “Asian b----” as she walked past him outside the apartment building. Esco followed her into the entryway of the building, where he punched her in the head and face more than 125 times, stomped her upper body about seven times and then spit on her before exiting the building, according to surveillance footage and statements from police and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.

A witness told NBC New York that she called 911 when she saw him beating the woman.

“I started knocking on the door, and when I did that it caught his attention, and that’s when he got off of her,” Yvette Crespo told the network. She said he stopped, walked to the corner, put up his hands and roared.

Esco was arrested outside the building without incident, police said in the statement.

The woman was rushed to a trauma center at a nearby hospital, police said. A police spokesman told The Washington Post on Tuesday that the victim was in stable condition.

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The incident occurred almost exactly a year after a shooting rampage at three Atlanta-area spas that killed eight people — six of whom were Asian women. The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, was sentenced to life in prison.

From the start of the coronavirus pandemic through the end of December 2021, more than 10,900 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander people in the United States were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Verbal harassment accounted for 63 percent of the incidents, following by physical assault, which made up more than 16 percent. The majority of them were reported by women, the organization said.

Federal authorities said the number of hate crimes in the United States climbed in 2020 to the highest level in more than a decade, particularly among Black and Asian victims.

In May, President Biden signed a bill into law to expedite investigations into hate crimes that have increased during the pandemic — especially those against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Following Friday’s incident, Esco was taken into custody and transferred to the Westchester County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in Yonkers Criminal Court on March 25, according to the district attorney’s office.

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