An elderly Asian man viciously assaulted in New York City last April succumbed to his injuries on Dec. 31, police announced on Saturday.
Yao Pan Ma, 61, had fought for his life at the hospital since the incident, which is now being investigated as a homicide, according to NBC News.
Ma, a Chinese immigrant, was collecting cans along East 125th Street and Third Avenue when a male assailant hit him from behind and knocked him to the ground on April 23, 2021.
The attack, which was caught on surveillance video, saw the suspect repeatedly stomp on Ma’s head.
Authorities arrested Jarrod Powell, 50, the following week and charged him with attempted murder and two counts of hate crime assault.
Powell, who pleaded not guilty on June 22, 2021, claimed that he committed the attack in retaliation against a “Korean guy” and a Japanese man who allegedly robbed him of his money and jewelry the day before the incident.
Ma, who lost his restaurant job amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was trying to make ends meet when the assault occurred.
“We’re calling on the District Attorney’s Office to upgrade the charges to murder now,” Karlin Chan, a spokesman for Ma’s family and community activist, shared with the Associated Press. “We’re fighting for justice and I hope [Powell] never walks the streets as a free man. He needs to pay for what he did.”
Ma is survived by his wife of 31 years, Baozhen Chen, who described him as a “very kind” and “hard-working” man who kept to himself.
“He is innocent. He did not do anything wrong. He is a very kind person. He is quiet. He doesn’t cause trouble to make people mad,” Chen told the New York Post in the aftermath of the attack.
A private funeral for Ma has been scheduled for next week, according to CNN.
Powell is currently held on a$100,000 bail and has been kept on Rikers Island ever since his arrest, according to the New York Daily News. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 10.