Nearly two years after an attack that required multiple stitches to his head, an 84-year-old Asian man reportedly met his alleged attacker for the first time in court on Thursday.
The event: Rong Xin Liao was waiting for a bus near Eddy and Leavenworth Streets in Tenderloin, San Francisco on Feb. 20, 2020, when a man darted out and kicked him on his seated walker. A surveillance video shows the moment of the attack and the suspect immediately taking off after.
- Liao, who blacked out and fell to the ground headfirst, sustained serious injuries and required multiple stitches. He reportedly spent four nights at the hospital.
- Eric Ramos Hernandez, 24, was eventually arrested and charged in connection with the incident. He reportedly spent seven months in custody before being released on mental health diversion at the request of his attorney.
- Following his release, Hernandez was arrested and convicted of another trespassing misdemeanor in Santa Clara County. Because of this, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office is requesting the court to have his diversion terminated, according to ABC7 News.
At the hearing on Thursday, Judge Charles Compton pointed out that Hernandez was only charged with elder abuse — not a hate crime — and that his trespassing misdemeanor was “not violent.” These factors will be taken into account as he requests a mental health review, KPIX reported.
Massive support: Liao was backed by a rally of supporters from various advocacy groups when he testified on Thursday at the Hall of Justice, according to KPIX. Participants criticized the district attorney’s office for failing to sufficiently punish Hernandez, per Liao’s wishes, due, in part, to a language barrier.
- Liao, who only speaks Cantonese, has always wanted a “strict punishment” for his attacker; however, a victims services advocate for the district attorney’s office pushed for Hernandez to be put on mental health diversion.
- The district attorney’s office told ABC 7 News that they “were not aware of the ‘misunderstanding’” until months later. Liao and his family have expressed their frustration and called for justice.
- Meanwhile, Liao’s supporters have expressed concern that Liao was victimized twice, not only in the case of the actual attack but also following, claiming he was “bullied” by the district attorney’s office, according to NBC Bay Area. Advocates are claiming he was misrepresented and not given adequate resources.
- On the other side of the courtroom, Hernandez’s public defender, Silvia Cediel, stressed that the case was not a matter of racism but of untreated mental health issues. “In admitting Mr. Ramos-Hernandez to mental health diversion the court recognized his serious mental health issues and his need for treatment,” she said to KPIX. “Jail is not a treatment center. It does not help people with mental health issues, and it often exacerbates those issues.”
Whether Hernandez is imprisoned or will remain on mental health diversion will be decided when the court reconvenes on Tuesday.