Muni attacks: Hate crimes or random violence?

April 2, 2010 6:12:14 PM PDT
Some in San Francisco's Asian community say the series of assaults on Muni buses amount to more than just random violence.

Surveillance video shows one of the recent incidents where teenage boys terrorized a rider along the Third Street Muni line. Some are saying that police should be investigating the attacks as hate crimes.

People in the Chinese-American community who ABC7 spoke to say the Muni attacks have created what they call a climate of fear among many Asians who live in the Bayview and Visitacion Valley districts to the point where some won't even consider riding Muni anymore.

In late January, 83-year-old Huan Chen was kicked and beaten as he left the Muni stop at Third and Oakdale. He later died from his injuries.

"The perpetrators ran off laughing. This is in the report. I don't see how anybody can do that to a human being, not even an animal," says community activist Marlene Tran.

On Monday last week, five teenagers surrounded a 57-year-old woman on the Muni platform at the same stop.

In surveillance camera video, it shows one of her assailants grabbing the woman by the neck and throwing her from the platform. A 15-year-old boy has been arrested in that attack. Then last Saturday, a group of teenagers assaulted a Muni rider at Third and Williams. Police say all the assailants have been black teenagers all their victims Asians.

"There's a lot of racial tension that's going on. A lot of people don't want to call it a hate crime, but I think this is something we definitely should discuss," says San Francisco resident Edward Hom.

Hom and San Francisco resident Joe Huang say they're just ordinary citizens who feel it's time to speak-up. They believe there have been other hate crimes against elderly Asians which have not been reported.

"They tend to keep quiet. I think that's why with our generation, we need to step up and speak up for our elders because if we don't do it, who else is going to do it?" says Huang.

Police says they're investigating Chen's death as a murder, but not as a hate crime.

"We did originally look it as a hate crime or that's what we believed, until some of our interviews and a motive was established which we believe was robbery," says Bayview Police station Lt. Joe McFadden.

Dr. Joe Marshall, president of the police commission, sums it up this way.

"When you have an incident then the perception is there's a divide. That's why you got to work hard to stop the incidents. When there is no incidents, nobody feels that there's a divide," says Marshall.

Police are investigating the death of Chen as a homicide. As for the other two Muni attacks, police still may consider them as hate crimes, but only they say if they find the evidence to back it up.


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