An Asian immigrant in New York died last week after he was left in a coma from a brutal assault in April that police said was a hate crime, authorities said.
The man, Yao Pan Ma, was pushing a grocery cart full of bottles and cans that he had picked up on April 23 when he was suddenly approached from behind and attacked in East Harlem. He fell to the sidewalk, was kicked in the head and trampled multiple times, police said.
Mr. Ma, 61, was hooked up to a ventilator and remained hospitalized since the assault occurred near 125th Street and Third Avenue. He had severe head injuries and was bleeding from the brain, authorities said.
The man arrested in the attack, Jarrod Powell, 49, was charged with attempted murder and two counts of assault as a hate crime at the time. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Saturday that enhanced murder charges were expected to be filed.
Ma’s death on December 31 came at the end of a year in which similar unprovoked attacks on Asians sparked fear and sparked protests in New York and across the country.
The New York Police Department received 128 reports of hate crimes against Asians as of the end of November. That represented a sharp increase from the 28 that were recorded during that period in 2020. Community groups have said anti-Asian attacks have not been reported for a long time due to language barriers and mistrust of the police.
Mr. Powell was arrested days after the attack. Police found him in a shelter where he had lived for about 10 months, according to court documents. An attorney for Powell could not be immediately located on Saturday.
Powell denied “having any problems with Asians” in interviews with officers, according to court records. He said two men, one Korean and one Japanese, had robbed him the day before the attack, but did not call 911 or offer physical descriptions other than his ethnic origin, according to the documents.
Powell claimed that Ma was one of the men, according to the documents. He said he saw him on the street the next day and that he had been verbally provoked. When Mr. Ma fell to the ground, Powell said he thought, “I’m not going to let him get up” and started kicking him, the documents say.
His next court appearance is scheduled for February 10.
In New York, to charge attacks like the one against Mr. Ma as hate crimes, prosecutors must show that the victims were targeted because of their race. Police said surveillance camera footage suggested that Mr. Ma and his attacker had not interacted prior to the assault, leading them to believe that he may have been the target due to his race.
Mr. Ma’s wife, Baozhen Chen, could not be reached on Saturday for comment. In the spring, she spoke to various local media outlets and said she feared her husband “would not make it” after the attack.
The couple moved to New York City around 2019 from China’s Guangdong province, leaving their two adult children behind. Ma had worked as a dessert chef in China, he told The Daily News, but lost his job at a restaurant in New York during the pandemic.
He was ineligible for unemployment benefits and began collecting cans on the street starting in September 2020, he said.
Ms. Chen, a home health aide, said that Mr. Ma called her regularly when he got home, to let her know that he had returned safely. She became concerned after he failed to call her on April night, when she later learned that he had been attacked.
“I was just trying to help the family,” Ms. Chen told The News. “He had no bad intentions. He would not cause problems with other people in his neighborhood. “
Michael Gold contributed to reporting.