Los Angeles police are searching for a suspect who was caught on surveillance video assaulting an Asian man earlier this week, authorities said.
Video footage released by police shows the suspect using his elbow to strike the victim in the face while the two were outside a storefront in the neighborhood of Koreatown on Monday. The “unprovoked” attack, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, resulted in the victim falling to the ground, appearing to be unconscious in the video.
After the assault, a bystander approached the suspect, confronted him and a dialogue ensued between the two, the video shows. Then, the suspect picked up the unconscious victim and handed him to the bystander. The attacker proceeded to walk away from the bystander and the victim and doesn’t appear to interact with them further. It is not clear from the video what happened further.
Los Angeles police are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect and say they’re actively investigating the attack.
The Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations said it is contacting the LAPD to ensure that detectives are exploring any evidence of a potential hate crime, including witness or suspect interviews, social media posts and comments made by the suspect about the incident. Authorities have yet to state any determinations whether the assault constitutes a hate crime.
Hate crimes, including those against Asians in the US, have seen a sharp increase in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic sparked attacks against Asians amid online and political rhetoric stigmatizing them, but this category of hate crime is often underreported.
In 2020, attacks targeting Asians nationally spiked to 279 from 161 in 2019, according to an FBI hate crime report. Statistics from 2021 have yet to be released.
The category of hate crime incidents where a victim was targeted because of their race, ethnicity or ancestry increased substantially between 2019 and 2020, with 8,052 single-bias incidents in 2020 compared to 3,954 the previous year.
‘Anti-Asian violence continues on’
Advocacy organizations indicate the attack in Los Angeles points to a larger pattern of violence against Asian Americans – regardless of whether police determine the assault is a hate crime.
“Seeing an Asian man being beaten in Koreatown nearly 40 years to the day of the brutal murder of Vincent Chin is a sobering reminder of how anti-Asian violence continues on,” said Connie Chung Joe, who heads nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles.
“Whether the police ultimately decides it has sufficient evidence to call this a hate crime or not, there’s no doubt that for our Asian American community, this is another example of the surge in violence and attacks against our community during this pandemic,” she said.
Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death in Detroit in 1982 by two White men who worked in the automotive industry during a time when the sector was facing economic decline due to Japanese competition. The pair didn’t spend a full day in jail for their crime.
In Los Angeles, the county’s human relations commission operates the LA vs. Hate program, which may offer support to victims.
Through the program, staff can facilitate meetings with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to obtain civil remedies is a case has elements of bias and discrimination exhibited by agencies, companies or people.
Manju Kulkarni, the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, told CNN her organization is advocating for two bills in the California legislature to stop public harassment.
“We don’t know the motivations behind this specific targeting of an Asian American, but we do know how real the problem of anti-AAPI hate is – not only in violent incidents like these but in the many more public harassment moments where racial and ethnic slurs are shouted at AAPIs just trying to go about their lives,” Kulkarni said.
CNN’s Christina Carrega and Priya Krishnakumar contributed to this report.