A man who allegedly assaulted a Chinese immigrant in New York City last year has been charged with murder in the second degree as a hate crime, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Thursday.
Jarrod Powell allegedly approached 61-year-old Yao Pan Ma from behind as the man collected cans at an East Harlem corner, struck him and kicked him in the head multiple times in April 2021, according to police. Ma died of his injuries eight months later.
CNN has reached out to Powell’s attorney for comment.
“The devastating death of Yao Pan Ma, a beloved father of two, occurred amidst a surge of anti-Asian attacks targeting our families, friends, neighbors and New York values,” Bragg said. “As alleged, Jarrod Powell selectively attacked Mr. Ma for no other reason than his race.”
Powell was arrested shortly after the attack. He told authorities he had been attacked “by two Korean or Japanese men the day before he attacked Mr. Ma,” but said he did not report the incident and did not provide any further description of his alleged assailants, the district attorney said.
The attack on Ma came during a spike in hate crimes across the city and the country, largely driven by an increase in attacks on Asian Americans, who were often brutally targeted and erroneously blamed for the pandemic.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) recorded 524 hate crime incidents in the city last year – nearly double the 2020 count, according to a department report. That number is the highest it’s been in at least five years, according to NYPD’s archive.
The most common hate crime bias motivation was anti-Jewish sentiment, according to NYPD data, but hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian bias saw the largest increase between 2020 and 2021.
About 131 anti-Asian incidents were confirmed in 2021 – a massive jump from the 27 reported in 2020, and the single incident reported a year prior.
The NYPD created an Asian Hate Crime Task Force in response to the 2020 rise, which included at least 25 Asian American officers to help break down language barriers that often kept victims from reporting their experiences, police said at the time.
Bragg, the district attorney, also said his office is prosecuting more anti-Asian incidents than ever.
“The Manhattan DA’s Office currently has 33 open hate crime cases related to anti-Asian hate crimes. The Manhattan DA’s Office prosecuted nearly four times more anti-Asian hate crimes in 2021 than in the previous year, along with a significant increase in anti-Asian hate crimes investigations,” the district attorney’s office said.
The 33 incidents, the office said, are “the most we have had since our Hate Crimes Unit was established in 2010.”
In the last two years, thousands of people across the US have been victims of anti-Asian incidents, from verbal abuse to physical attacks. Last month, San Francisco police reported anti-Asian hate crimes in the city had spiked 567% in 2021.
And hate crimes in general have risen across the country since the onset of the pandemic.
In its annual hate crime statistics report released last year, the FBI said more than 7,700 criminal hate crime incidents were reported to the agency in 2020 – the highest number recorded since 2008.