Tommy Lau, a Chinese-American driver in New York City, was walking during a lunch break in Brooklyn last month when he noticed a man harassing an older Asian couple.
Mr. Liu, 63, walked up to the man and asked him what he was doing. The prosecutor said that the man, Donovan Lawson, spat at Mr. Liu and beat him in the face, calling him anti-Chinese slander. Mr. Blake Lawson was arrested and charged with hate crimes.
Authorities say this is the 33rd arrest of 26-year-old Lawson who is homeless and mentally ill. Someone called the police four times to assist him because he appeared to have a nervous breakdown and was under surveillance in a mental health care program at the police station to treat him.
This model shows that when racial prejudice and mental illness overlap, there are still gaps in the criminal justice system’s ability to effectively respond, even though the city has stepped up its law enforcement efforts to combat these crimes.
For example, Mr. Lawson was one of at least seven people arrested after attacking residents of Asian cities in the last two weeks of March, and ended up in a terrorist attack on a Filipino woman. The police said a man was sentenced to jail for killing his mother, is homeless, and is on parole.
Of the seven arrested, five had encountered the police. During this period, they were considered “emotional distress” and the police referred to them as people in need of psychiatric treatment. Investigators believe that the other two people also have signs of mental illness.
Officials said the arrested were part of a group of mentally unstable people who entered and left the prison for minor crimes and often did not get the psychiatric treatment they needed. Many people also struggle with drug addiction.
New York Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said in a television interview on Friday, “Before these tragic events, there will always be people arrested. We need to address this mental illness. problem.”
The police said that so far, the police have received at least 35 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in New York this year, which has exceeded the 28 reported in the whole year of last year and far exceeded the three reported in 2019.
Last year, as the pandemic spread, attacks on Asian Americans began to increase. Former President Donald Trump called the disease a “Chinese virus” and Blame the disaster on China.
Law enforcement officials said Mr. Trump’s remarks provided ammunition for those who became Asian Americans because of the spread of the virus, aggravating ethnic tensions and inciting unprovoked attacks and harassment.
At the same time, the epidemic has strained the criminal justice system, which has been trying to provide treatment for mentally ill persons who violate the law for a long time. Social services have reduced face-to-face meetings. The unemployment rate has soared. The number of single homeless adults has reached a record level.
“People’s fuses are much shorter,” said Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former senior official in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. “If you are an angry person full of hatred, it doesn’t seem to take much time to detonate you.”
Experts in this type of prosecution say that after the split news incidents, hate crime incidents in New York have generally been on the rise, and most incidents stemmed from impulsive confrontations. For example, after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Muslim America became the target of the attack. Anti-Semitic attacks rose after white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
State prison officials said they were unable to release information about the health history of Brandon Elliot, who was arrested for the brutal attack on a Filipino woman in Manhattan on March 29 due to privacy laws.
However, according to a law enforcement official, in 2002 someone asked the police to assist Elliot with mental health treatment, and a few months ago, he stabbed his mother to death in front of his 5-year-old sister.
Some people questioned whether Mr. Elliott, a black man, was properly supervised after being released on parole. Police said that Elliot, 38, was living in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, which had always been a home for the homeless. Other residents said his behavior was sometimes unstable.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week that Mr. Elliot’s case highlights a common problem. He said that the country “has no plan, no housing, no job, no mental health support” to release people from prisons to cities.
The New York State Department of Corrections said in a statement that every person released from prison has a personal treatment and rehabilitation plan, and the mayor “apparently was not informed.” The Law Aid Society, which represents Mr. Elliot, urges the public to “reserve the verdict until all facts are brought to court.”
In the short term, the city has responded to the increase in anti-Asian attacks by strengthening law enforcement. The police station has dispatched plainclothes personnel to Asia’s populous communities and encouraged more victims to come forward.
However, criminologists say that facing the role of mental illness in such crimes is also crucial, and the city lacks a strong safety net for individuals who frequently come into contact with law enforcement officials and mental health professionals.
Kevin Nadal, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said: “The system is so severe that someone can be handcuffed to the hospital and then back on the street within a few hours.”
Mr. de Blasio said that only a few people with mental illness committed violence, and the city actively followed up with people with both a history of mental illness and documented records.
Catherine L. Bajuk, a mental health lawyer expert at the New York County Defenders Organization, said research shows that compared with others, people with mental illness are less likely to commit crimes and are more likely to become victims.
Last spring, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, a flood of hatred and violence against American descendants began to flood.
- background: Community leaders say that paranoia is fueled by President Donald J. Trump, who often uses racist language such as “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus.
- data: The New York Times used media reports from all over the country to capture the perception of the rising trend of anti-Asian prejudice and found that there have been more than 110 incidents since March 2020, among which there are obvious evidence of racial hatred.
- Underreport Hate crime: Considering the general underestimation of hate crimes, this statistic may be only a small part of violence and harassment, but the extensive investigation reflects an increase in the number of violence incidents across the country during the course of Mr. Trump’s comments.
- in New York: The economic impact of the pandemic has exacerbated waves of xenophobia and violence, and has dealt a heavy blow to the Asian American community in New York. Many community leaders said that racist attacks were ignored by the authorities.
- What happened Atlanta: On March 16, a shooting occurred in a massage parlour in Atlanta, killing 8 people, including 6 Asian women. The suspect’s motive for the murder is under investigation, but Asian communities across the United States are still on alert because of the surge in attacks against Asian Americans in the past year.
Some people arrested in the recent anti-Asian incident have a history of instability, which did not bring any comfort to the victims.
Mr. Liu, a Brooklyn bus driver, said in an interview that he believes that the punch he got from Lawson is rooted in “the breakdown of mental health problems.”
He said that, despite this, Mr. Lawson still fits the racist model since he was a child, when his elementary school teacher called him Tommy instead of Kok Wah to prevent his classmates from making fun of him. he.
Mr. Liu said: “When you are an Asian, you are always like this. You are always harassed by others.” “The pandemic makes the situation worse.”
Mr. Lawson’s sister Regina Lawson said that he showed signs of mental illness when he was young and received treatment until he grew up and his mother no longer forced him to leave. The siblings are now estranged.
Ms. Lawson said: “There must be a better way than dealing with other people, rather than waiting for them to commit a felony or actually hurt someone before they can get their support.”
Housing providers said that during the pandemic, mental illness among homeless people like Lawson was worsened because the city moved thousands from shelters to hotel rooms to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This has isolated some people with mental illnesses from the world and made them less supervised.
Police said a homeless person was recently charged with anti-Asian hate crimes. He is 27 years old. He has received 13 emotional harassment calls beforehand and arrested at least 12 people.
Police said that on March 21, Mr. Deoliveira of Hispanic assaulted a Chinese-American mother in Manhattan and smashed the signs she had been carrying after protesting against the anti-Asian violence rally.
Prosecutors said that on Saturday night, Mr. Diolihuela, who was released after the assault charges, was arrested again in Queens and accused of destroying the windshield of a police patrol car. Mr. Deoliveira’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
In some cases, psychological fitness has become a legal issue. Last month, a judge ordered a mental health assessment of 26-year-old Ruddy Rodriguez. He was arrested and accused of hitting an Asian in the back of the head when he said something anti-Chinese in Manhattan. .
The prosecutor said that the black and Hispanic Mr. Rodriguez told investigators after his arrest: “I hit him. I don’t like Asians. I had a dispute with them.” He also reportedly told the police: “I will leave. At this time, I will kill all Asians.”
Court records show that during Mr. Rodriguez’s appearance in court, he often interrupted the proceedings and denied the allegations. Prosecutors said he was arrested in January after smashing a glass door in a Manhattan homeless shelter and threatening to kill the coordinator at the site.
Mr. Rodriguez’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
Michael Gold contributed the report. Sheelagh McNeill and Kitty Bennett contributed research.