“The couple was on one of their evening walks as they do on a regular basis at this park when our suspect approached, unprovoked, and punched both of them in the face, causing both of them to fall to the ground,” Sgt. Phil McMullin told ABC7. Both victims, who have not yet been identified, are expected to recover.
According to the Associated Press, during Vivona’s arrest, he told police he had a “hate” or “fixation” about Asians. This led police to believe the attack was racially motivated. Vivona has been charged with two felony counts of elder abuse, two felony counts of battery hate crime causing injury, and two felony hate crime enhancements for the “unprovoked attack” against the Korean couple, District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. Vivona pleaded not guilty to every charge.
But that’s not all: Vivona has also been identified as the same man who threatened U.S. Olympian Sakura Kokumai earlier this month. He is currently under investigation in connection with that incident.
In a video of the incident from April 1, Vivona can be heard telling Kokumai to “go home” and calling her “Chinese” and “disgusting.” Kokumai, a Japanese American Olympic athlete, told NBC News she was on a run in a park she normally trains in when he started berating her. “When he walked closer, that’s where I did get scared a little bit, because you just never know what could happen,” she said.
Kokumai said she shared the video to spread awareness of the harassment and fear Asian Americans are facing. “I want everybody to know, especially in the AAPI community, that you’re not alone,” Kokumai told NBC News. “I think it’s really important to have compassion, share love and look out for one another.” She added that “it makes me emotional just to think about it because at the time I did feel that I was alone.”
The arrest follows a number of attacks in California’s Orange County, including one on March 31 during which a man threw rocks at an Asian woman and her 6-year-old child as they drove down the street, AP News reported. Similar to Vivona, the man expressed bias against and xenophobia towards Asian Americans.
Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in the number of anti-Asian attacks across the country. In some states like New York, police have set up task forces in response to the violence. Other states are considering similar initiatives. According to data released by Stop AAPI Hate, almost 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian hate were reported over the past year during the pandemic. The number only accounts for those incidents that were reported, so the actual number of crimes is expected to be much higher.
There’s can be no room for racism in this country. Now more than ever we must support the AAPI community, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends.
If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion, race, or identity, call the police (dial 911 in the U.S.), or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.