A man accused of brutally attacking an elderly Asian man in New York City last April has been charged with murder as a hate crime on Thursday.
Jarrod Powell, 50, has been detained on Rikers Island since his arrest after the incident, which left 61-year-old Yao Pan Ma fighting for his life until his death last December.
Ma, a Chinese immigrant, was collecting cans along East 125th Street and Third Avenue on April 23, 2021, when a male assailant hit him from behind and knocked him to the ground.
Surveillance footage of the attack shows the assailant repeatedly stomping on Ma’s head – a scene witnessed by 37-year-old Armetha Knight.
“He [Ma] was minding his business with his shopping cart. When he got to the scaffolding, an African American man attacked him from behind,” Knight told New York Daily News. “He hit him from behind and then curb-stomped him.”
A bus driver also saw the attack and caught the attention of a nearby ambulance, NBC News reported. Ma, who lost consciousness, was rushed to the hospital. He was placed in a medically-induced coma after the attack, according to his wife.
Powell was arrested on April 27, 2021. While speaking to detectives, he claimed that Ma had robbed him the day before the incident and that he committed the attack in retaliation.
The 50-year-old initially faced attempted murder and hate crime charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. However, Ma succumbed to his injuries on Dec. 31, 2021, leading to the elevated murder charge on Thursday.
“The devastating death of Yao Pan Ma, a beloved father of two, occurred amid a surge of anti-Asian attacks targeting our families, friends, neighbors and New York values,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, as per AM New York. “As alleged, Jarrod Powell selectively attacked Mr. Ma for no other reason than his race.”
Bragg said his office is currently prosecuting 33 anti-Asian hate crimes – the highest number they have had since their Hate Crimes Unit was established in 2010. He urged the public to “remain vigilant and forcefully reject bias-fueled crimes.”
Ma resorted to collecting cans after losing his restaurant job due to COVID-19. His wife, Baozhen Chen, described him as a “quiet,” “hard-working” and “very kind” man who “doesn’t cause trouble to make people mad.”
Ma suffered a traumatic brain injury and never regained consciousness. He was moved in and out of multiple care facilities until his death, community activist and family spokesperson Karlin Chan told the Associated Press.
Powell, who has had multiple arrests dating back to 1988, is now being held on a $3 million cash bail or a $9 million bond. Chan said Ma’s family had been waiting for his re-indictment.
“We’re hopeful moving forward with the prosecution of securing a conviction and putting him away for the rest of his life,” Chan told the New York Post on Thursday. “A person like that does not belong in society.”
Featured Image via Assemblymember Ron T. Kim (left), New York Police Department (right)