Two Asian women were standing at a bus stop in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District late Tuesday afternoon when a man approached, stabbed them both, and then calmly strolled away.
“He walked away like nothing happened, like Sunday morning,” Patricia Lee, who was working at a flower stand near the attack, told KGO-TV.
Two hours later, San Francisco police arrested a 55-year-old man in the attack, which sent both victims to the hospital, according to San Francisco police. One victim, an 85-year-old woman, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center to undergo surgery.
“Disgusting and horrific attack on Market St this afternoon of two Asian seniors,” San Francisco District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney said in a statement on Twitter. “Nothing more sickening than stabbing an 85-year-old woman while she waits for the bus. Horrific.”
Police said in a statement Tuesday that a motive has not yet been determined and told local media that officers are still investigating to determine whether hate crime charges should be brought in the case. Neither the man arrested nor the victims have been publicly identified by authorities.
The attack comes on the heels of dozens of similar incidents across the United States, where Asian people have been brutally attacked in New York, California’s Bay Area, Atlanta, and other places.
Anti-Asian incidents increased in 2020 as politicians, including then-president Donald Trump, used terms such as “Kung Flu” and “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus pandemic. Many aggressors who have targeted Asian individuals in the United States have used slurs and derogatory language, sometimes connected to the pandemic.
Police in New York City released a graphic video Tuesday that showed the assault of two Asian women in Manhattan this past weekend. The assailant demanded the women remove their masks before hitting a 31-year-old woman in the head with a hammer. The attacker ran away, and police have not yet made an arrest. That case was just one of four anti-Asian hate crimes to take place in New York City during the weekend.
Following mass shootings at three spas in Atlanta that killed eight people, including six Asian women, in March, 81 percent of Asian adults living in the United States said they believe violence against Asian people is on the rise, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
The spate of violent attacks on Asians led the Senate to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in late April, to designate an employee at the Justice Department to expedite hate crime investigations and increase support for local law enforcement agencies to investigate bias incidents.
The attack in San Francisco on Tuesday began just before 5 p.m. police said, when witnesses watched as a man approached the two Asian women and then attacked them with a knife.
“The assailant essentially just walked up to their victim, stabbed them, and very casually walked away in broad daylight,” Jenny Shao, who saw the attack, told KPIX.
Lee, the flower stand employee who also witnessed the attack, described the weapon to KGO as very large, with “knuckles on the handle” and said “the blade had holes in there like a military knife.” She said one woman’s jacket was sliced through and the second victim still had a blade stuck in her arm when the attacker left the scene.
Haney said late Tuesday that both women survived surgery.
“Both of the victims are out of surgery and stable,” Haney said in a statement on Twitter. “Their families are with them at the hospital. I am reaching out to the families and victims to offer support.”
Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco district attorney, said he was heartbroken by the attack and praying for the women as they underwent surgery.
“We will not tolerate brutal attacks like this,” he said in a statement late Tuesday.