Vichar Ratanapakdee, 84, was on a Thursday morning walk in the city’s Anza Vista neighborhood when a young man charged and barreled into him at full speed. Vichar was later rushed to a hospital.
Racism is suspected in the unprovoked attack, which sent Vichar sprawling hard to the ground and evidently hitting his head against a closed garage door.
Vichar died two days later on Saturday.
Antoine Watson, 19, was arrested later that day and charged with murder, elder abuse, and assault.
His associate, 20-year-old Malaysia Goo, was also arrested on suspicion of being an accessory to the attack after she was spotted fleeing the scene with Watson in CCTV footage of the attack.
The attack has drawn significant attention in San Francisco’s Asian-American community as an example of the hate-fueled violence that has surged since the pandemic began last year, fanned by those pinning blame on China.
Vichar’s family believes the attack was motivated by hate. Eric Lawson, identified as Vichar’s stepson, wrote in a crowdfunding appeal for Vichar’s memorial and funeral that it was “COVID-19 fueled anti-Asian racism.”
“Our family has endured multiple verbal Anti-Asian attacks since the beginning of the pandemic, this time it was fatal. Racism has once again proven deadly. Anti-Asian racism has become a very serious danger to all Asian Americans, particularly in San Francisco. It’s time the authorities took serious action to combat it.” he wrote.
Vichar reportedly relocated from Thailand to San Francisco to help care for his grandchildren.
According to a Facebook page believed to be his, he was originally from Songkhla. Nearly all of the photos posted, there are of a smiling Vichar with two young boys.